Monday, January 27, 2014

Let’s talk about bullying

A Texas family whose daughter is a victim of cyberbullying is suing the parents of those children who created an Instagram account to mock other kids.

I say good for them.

We live in an overly-litigious society, but this case seems like a good use of the courts. Just as there are slander and libel laws, so, too, should there be defamation laws that prohibit the kind of mean-spirited bullying that kids face today. And while the kids who do the bullying should be held accountable, so, too, should their parents who permit such behavior or who have neglected to keep an eye on their children’s activities.

Someone asked, “What happened to the time when you just punched a bully in the throat?” You constantly hear people saying kids are wimps today, man up, stand up to the bullies, etc. Sure, blame the victim. Always blame the victim. That way you don’t have to take any responsibility for your own cruelty.

To answer that woman's question, this is what happened: parents stopped being parents. Parents stopped teaching their kids to be civil to each other, stopped teaching them about respect and responsibility, stopped teaching them about how to be decent human beings. Parents stopped parenting, stopped paying attention to what their kids were doing, stopped disciplining them. They ceded parenting functions to schools and television, then sued the schools when they tried to do anything resembling discipline.

Bullying today is not the same as it was ten, twenty, thirty years ago. It's relentless, it's widespread with swift dissemination thanks to the internet, and it's done after years of parents teaching their kids that they were special snowflakes, that they can do no wrong, that everyone gets a trophy even if they lost the game. This last point creates both more bullies and more victims, since kids think they can do whatever they want and more things are offensive to those who think they are special. 

I’d venture to say that most people who blame victims of cyberbullying simply don’t understand the internet, because I find it difficult to believe that many people are so heartless. Before the internet, bullies were limited in the number of people whom they could reach; now, the reach is virtually limitless. Bullies are connected in an unprecedented way, and the anonymity of the internet has created the space for even more of them.

Blaming the victim is the same as bullying the victim and is done with ignorance and the same lack of respect for fellow human beings as the bullies who've sent other kids to their graves. It’s time to hold parents accountable for their children’s actions. People who blame the victim should be ashamed of themselves.

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