The internet has changed the way we do everything. We have fancy phones that let us stay connected with the world- even beyond how connected text messaging made us.
Right now there is an epidemic of teen suicides because of bullying. In very recent times, 4 teenagers killed themselves because they were bullied about being gay. But there have been plenty of high profile teen suicides that were linked to bullying in general. Remember the girl who killed herself after a woman created a fake MySpace profile to torture the girl with? While the woman was arrested, there wasn’t really anything that she could be charged with that actually fit the crime.
Once upon a time, if someone was bullied, they had an escape. Odds were pretty good that they could count their home as a safe haven, so that no matter how bad things were at school, they could distance themselves. Not only that, since the bullying likely took place on school grounds, school administrations were able to get involved.
But now, bullying takes place through the internet and texting as well as on campus. Even if school administrators get the bullying to stop on campus, there’s no way to stop it on the internet. Which means that nowhere is safe for the victim- they could be bullied right in their home.
I’m enjoying the It Gets Better project, which is geared towards GLBTQ teens who are bullied. But realistically, as a society we need to recognize that things have changed about our world. We need to educate little kids about bullying and teach them to protect each other, and that it’s good to report it if you see someone being bullied- even if it’s on the internet. We need to figure out how to deal with online bullying, so that somehow people are held accountable.
Children learn from watching us. You might not realize the things you say, but it makes an impression on them. The harder that some fight to make gay Americans legally second class citizens- saying they’re unfit to serve in the military and that they shouldn’t be able to marry… kids will wonder if gay people are actually bad people. If we let them say that something is “gay” when they mean that it’s lame, we’re reaffirming that gay = bad. If we don’t teach them that fag is just as bad as a racial epithet… they’re not going to understand why they hurt someone when they use it.
With as divided as the nation is getting, this has to have an effect on our kids. They might start wondering if being a Republican or a Democrat makes you better than another political party, if the color of your skin really does determine whether or not you’re a threat, or if something like your sexual preference makes you less of a person.
Two showtunes that are worth a listen. “Carefully Taught” from South Pacific and “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods. Both excellent reminders that hate is taught, and that children watch and listen.