Your. Kids. Are. Bullies. - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

From Tech Producer Tshaka Armstrong

Your. Kids. Are. Bullies.

Posted: Updated:

Yes, I said that. Your children are bullies. Your children and mine. Assume that, even if they aren't, then go talk to them right now if you haven't already. Within each of our children lies the potential to be both victim and victimizer. I grow weary of reading story after story of grade schoolers committing suicide because several other children tormented them, as is the case -allegedly- with this latest victim, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick. Mom and dad, WAKE UP! I once had a parent tell me that they don't check their child's Facebook page because that's like reading their diary. Lol, wut? No, no it is not. Diaries aren't publicly available on the internet. I'm going to share some thoughts based on the hundreds of parents and children I've dealt with.

Stop trying to equate your experience with your children's digital experiences. I've dealt with three different kinds of parents primarily, when I speak on digital literacy. That's the parent who is just clueless about their children's digital lives and had kind of thrown their hands up and taken a hands-off approach, then the parent who thinks all of this is no big deal and not much to worry about and lastly, the parent who draws uninformed parallels between their childhood experiences and those of their children. The first two are fairly easy to deal with because they're often just uniformed and once they get some info, they typically perform a course correction and arm themselves and their families with the proper resources. That third parent (this also extends to many folk on the internet as well) seems to think they know everything already because they've been through it all as a child themselves. If you're that parent, let me tell you this... you haven't been through it if you didn't have your first cellphone until you were an adult and it required up to three taps per character to send a text message. If your first computer class was focused primarily on typing tutorials, you have little clue what your children are experiencing. If you didn't even take that class until high school you may be completely oblivious to what their lives online are like.

Though bullying is bullying, when cellphones and computers become involved, that bullying takes on a new dimension which may become seemingly inescapable for some children. It's like those horror movies where some specter is haunting someone and everywhere they turn that ghost is there, taunting and harassing its victim until that victim eventually cracks. This is how it feels for some children. Those taunting that child send them text messages and when, or if, they get blocked, they just enlist another tormentor to send messages. And it doesn't stop there. The same tactic is employed on your child's social media outlet of choice. Imagine that the digital realm is your child's local park, their playground, their afterschool program, their cul-de-sac where they play with their friends. Now imagine that your child had a bully in each of those environments. No matter where they went, they were bullied. Even in their own bedroom... the bully lived there as well. I'm to going to go into how much screen time a child should  be having, or how much time they should be spending disconnecting from their online world and playing in the real one because that isn't always the reality in many households. How many people did you grow up with who were raised by their televisions? The point of all of this is that you can't equate your diary to your child's Facebook page. You can't equate your school yard bullying to your child's text messaging, social media harassing and school yard bullying tormentors  . Period . Your bullies didn't have that kind of access.

We must stop minimizing this. We must stop making this some special case that only happens elsewhere. We must stop assuming that our children would never be a part of such behavior because even being aware of it and not doing anything to help is just as bad. Please, please, please talk to your children about being a victim, being the victimizer and being a bystander to acts of bullying. Bring a little harsh reality and tell your children that when they bully, when they do something they think may be "not that bad" that they never know what's going on in that other child's life! That other may have a horrible home life and your child's actions could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

For all of you who have had to sit with your children while they cry their hearts out because of this, I am so sorry that technology has evolved faster than your ability to learn or keep up with it. I am sorry for every computer savvy person who's looked at you like you're stupid for not knowing about every "gotcha" your child could be into or trapped by.  I am sorry that you thought you were doing everything you knew to do but now feel like it wasn't enough while you suffer the pain of watching your child hurting. There are new sites, new traps, new apps, new things for children to get into every day and being a parent is hard enough but don't be afraid to take that phone, or unplug/turn off that internet connection until you can get things under control. Don't be afraid to disconnect for your child so you child is disconnected from what could hurt him or her. Don't be afraid to do that which could have your child hating you temporarily, so they'll be around to realize how much you loved them later on.

Tshaka Armstrong Tech Ninja Tshaka Armstong writes about the latest technology and helping FOX 11 Viewers understand how to be safer, smarter users of the internet and their "gadgets. He's also one of our social media guys, helping guide the station's online efforts and social media outreach.
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