I’ll remove the cause… but not the symptom!

I admit. I was listening to my original Roxy Cast recording of the Rocky Horror Show (the one where it’s impossible to tell the difference between Janet, Columbia and Magenta), so I couldn’t help this title.

What I actually wanted to talk about is a bit of short-sightedness in regards to dealing with new media and bullying of behalf of well-intentioned parents and grandparents.

As many of you know, there’s been a rise in bullying via social networking sites, mobile phones, etc. And some of you may have heard, as I have, the comment from the *ahem* “older generation”:

Well, I say: take away those phones! Stop spending time on the internet! We didn’t have them when I was young, and we survived. They’re more harm than good, in my opinion.

And they say it as if it’s the most obvious solution and they have no idea why this hasn’t yet happened. But, when I was young, I didn’t have a mobile phone. And when I was on the internet (at about 9 years, chattin’ to potential creeps on IRC and through ICQ), there were certainly not any/many of my classmates online to harrass me. No, they did that at school. Or after school. Or before school. Or during lunch. They did it by excluding me from things, and making sure I knew what was happening. I went through some tough times at primary school- just ask my mother.

How about removing the cause? Okay, I’ll go be homeschooled. But I wasn’t, even though Mum was a teacher. This is how I survived and continued to survive to this day: something I would never have learnt or practiced if I was removed. Someone (mother is sure it wasn’t her) told me to… just ignore it. And, if you’re quick enough, agree with them. Give them no power and they’ll stop trying. I wasn’t physically bullied (being one of those girls who matures quickly and looks powerful if not so pretty at age 13), so I’m not sure how well that would go. But regardless, I never needed a plan to deal with that… except when some kid kept kissing me and I didn’t like it.

The point I’m trying to make, in a weird roundabout way is: Bullying happens. It shouldn’t, but it does. I watched 17 Again, and as cheesy as it was, Dad-in-teen’s-body made some good points about why people are bullies. Watch it. It’s groan-tastic. But anyway, these classmates of your son or daughter are going to bully them, no matter what you do. Take away their mobile phone, they’ll get teased for not having one. Take away their internet, and they’ll be excluded from things (events, information, knowledge) whether they know it or not (and eventually they’ll know it).

This is the culture your child is growing up in. They need to learn how to maneuver within it. To remove important parts of their culture, you risk alienating them and putting them in a situation that causes more anxiety than if you were to sit down with them at the first opportunity (whether they get bullied in playgroup at age 2 or at a workplace) and give them tools for dealing with the situation. If you don’t know what to do, ask an older child whether they’ve been through it and what to do. You can’t change the changing culture. They probably know more about it than you do.  Help your child by working through things with them.

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