I want you to imagine for a moment that you're in the sixth grade. You just finished your homework or studying for a test, and you log onto your Facebook account to see what everyone is up to. All of a sudden your heart begins to pound. Your stomach starts to ache. You get that feeling like you want to cry. You realize that someone in your class has created a "Like if You Hate [You]" page. And it has 57 likes.
Now even worse, imagine this happened to your child.
A recent essay in The New York Times by Emily Laden talks about how this very thing happened to her little brother. And it's heartbreaking. At one point, she says: "On the Monday after the Facebook incident, my brother dreaded school for fear of facing his 57 bullies, who probably never gave their likes a second thought." Fifty-seven people.
A million years ago, when I was in sixth grade, bullying and making fun of, obviously, still existed. I am yet to meet a person my age who never was on the receiving end of cruel joke or worse during their adolescence. But it ended -- sort of -- when you went home. Sure, there were phone calls, stretching out the drama, once school got out. But there was never a constant stream of hate in the form of social media. I honestly don't know how kids do it today. School is hard enough. I can't fathom having to deal with Facebook and Twitter on top of it.
Now that I have a daughter of my own, I wonder (read: worry) about how I'm going deal with these things when she's old enough to go to school. This form of bullying is all but impossible to prevent. You can't stop Facebook. Every parent's worst nightmare is their child being bullied/made fun of/excluded, etc. So, what do you do?
I'm still new at this parenting thing, so I can't really say that I have an iron-clad answer, but what I've come up with so far is this: Not much. There's only so much one can do to prevent their child from being the butt of some brat's joke. But we can do something about having our kid not become the brat. And isn't that more important?
Teach your child -- as much as you can -- to be the kind of person who would never, ever take part in something like this (and who will stick up for the person being made fun of!). Drill it into their heads that this kind of behavior is not okay. Of course, there are things that fall (inadvertently) outside of a parent's jurisdiction -- and often peer pressure supersedes parenting -- but trying is all one can do, right?
I'm not saying that the reason the kid who created this mean Facebook page is because he "wasn't raised properly" or whatever. I have no idea what this child's home life is like. But I am saying that although it has to be the most heart-breaking thing on earth to see your child being made fun of, it's a whole other issue learning that they're the ones doing the making fun of.
What do you do to teach your child that bullying is wrong?
Image via Eddie~S/Flickr