Sticks and stones and text messages

Phone

I miss old school bullying.

Not that I endorse bullying of any kind, I am just saying it was simpler back in the day. If a person had a problem with you, they had to come to find you to tell you about it. At most, they sent a lackey to deliver the message.

We knew who the mean kid was, we knew steps to take to avoid them.

When I was younger, I rode the bus to school. Our particular bus had a bully all it’s own. She was TERRIBLE. So terrible that 30 years later, I hear her name and have to force myself to suppress a shudder.

As bad as she was, when I stepped off the bus, she was gone. By the time my sister and I walked up our driveway, we were able to push her out of our minds. We were home, and we were safe.

Our home was home base, and no bully could reach us there. Our parents screened calls, the internet was a family tool at best, we were safe. That safety allowed us time to recoup, to fortify for the next day.

Our kids do not have that same experience, and it is heartbreaking. Due to the invent of cell phones, social media and more, the interaction does not stop.

The house phone in the kitchen or living room has been replaced by personal cell phones that are often located in our teen’s bedrooms.

The family internet is now unlimited data in the palm of their hand.

What is intended as connectivity can quickly turn painful when the messages being received are unkind.

Many of the contacts are even untraceable as the emergence of more and more apps built to disguise the sender’s contact information.

As parents, we wish to protect our children from such pain. Our desire is to find the source of the hurt and make it go away.

My daughter was recently the victim of just this type of interaction, waking up to cruel words on a screen. She shared the information with me, and we found the number to be untraceable, having come from a site or app designed to hide the original sender’s identity.

We used the opportunity to talk about how “hurt people hurt people.”

We talked about how bullying is more about the other person than the one receiving the behavior.

We talked about how we know the truth.

We also acknowledged the pain felt because words do hurt.

As the mom, I contacted the school counselor and school resource officer (police officer assigned to the school).

When it continued, we changed her number with the hope this will bring it to an end.

The feeling as a parent who cannot protect them from the pains that come with living in 2018 is terrible. I long for scraped knees and bee stings. Those tears were easier to handle, there was a clear solution.

Parents, watch your kids. Look for changes in behavior that may indicate they are on the receiving end of this type of behavior. Check their messages. Not because you don’t trust them, but because you love them.

Also look through your children’s phones. Check their apps. Be certain you understand what each is, and if they have ones that are designed to mask who they are, demand to know why, and delete it.

My daughter was brave enough to come to me with the messages.

She spent time this weekend with friends and declared she would not allow someone who was a coward to change the way she felt about herself.

According to the Parent Resource Program with the Jason Foundation:

  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24. (2016 CDC WISQARS)
  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18. (2016 CDC WISQARS)
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
  • Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 3,041 attempts by young people grades 9-12. If these percentages are additionally applied to grades 7 & 8, the numbers would be higher.
  • Four out of Five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs

As parents, this should make us take notice. Bullying is an epidemic, though it is not new.

Anonymous bullying is dangerous. The side effects can be catastrophic.

Be vigilant.

* As is the rule when I write about the kids, they get to read it prior to publishing. When sent to my daughter, her response was this:
I think you need to share this because if we don’t more people could be hurt by people like this and I’d rather it be me who is in a good place physically and mentally than someone who is where I was a year ago or where some of my friends were where they don’t feel worth it. I’d rather be the one who can take it than the person who with one sentence could contemplate ending it.

She’s 14 ladies and gentlemen, and she understands what’s at stake, we parents need to make sure we understand too.

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