Cyber Bullying: Are We Leading By Example?

It has been all over the news for years now, and is a growing concern for the parents of pre-teens and teens. Cyber bullying has taken the torture and agony that is bullying from the playground and brought it into our homes.

Parents do their best. They limit computer time, make sure to keep computers in plain sight where they hope to catch any wrongs done, bullying or otherwise, and lobby law makers to adjust our laws to catch up with the social media/instant media world we live in.

But are we mothers leading by example?

Before I go any further I want to say that my writing this is NOT an attempt to continue, drag out, or re-start any past arguments. I will be more closely moderating the comments on this post in an effort to keep any follow up discussion on the topic of cyber bullying and from getting out of hand. (Basically what I am saying is that I am moving on to the part where I learn from what happened and take from it what I can.)

A few Wednesdays ago I made a few frustrated and angry online comments via twitter about a mom's group that I had been attending regularly. I am willing to concede that making these comments so publicly was at the very least a bad idea and at the very most inappropriate considering the private nature of said group. Part of me knew that at the time but I went ahead and did it anyways, oh well, my bad, can’t go back and do anything about it now.

After a few days to cool down, I went about writing down my thoughts on the subject discussed and the pressure I feel mothers receive in regards to that subject. I tried to do so in a way that articulated only my personal beliefs in regards to MY situation and my reasons for holding those beliefs.

What happened in the comments was immediate and profound. My opinions were challenged (which is a-ok with me, that's what the comment section is for), the things I said on twitter were attacked (which, while my comments were unacceptable my intention while writing that post was not to use my blog as a follow up to those comments, but rather a more calm and rational stating of my beliefs. Hence I did not mention my previous tweets, or the moms group involved in my original post.), and finally I was personally attacked repeatedly and anonymously by a fair sized group of people, many of whom, I would later find out, are known to me 'in real life' and have access to both my phone number and email address. Had these people contacted me with their concerns about my behavior in another way I likely would have apologized. (After what has happened though all phone calls or emails on the subject will be ignored/deleted, the previous paragraph is as close to an apology as I will come.)

Before we can do anything to protect our children from cyber bullying, we must first take a good hard look at the way we conduct ourselves online.

At the same time that I would never decline to write or say something important to me on the off (or inevitable) chance that my opinion will offend someone. I would also NEVER go out of my way to gang up on and attack an INDIVIDUAL no matter how offended I am by their words. I prefer to challenge ideas. (I realize that my twitter comments came perilously close to doing so, but I stand by the fact that I did not single anyone out, use the names of any group members, or even the name of the group itself. I also followed up my comments by stating that I knew my outbursts to be unfair over-generalizations but was acting out of frustration at being bullied myself... Yes, I was very much belittled, disregarded, disrespected, and excluded in that group on a number of separate occasions.)

Situations similar to this one are certainly not unheard of and could even be described as common place.

Heather Armstrong, author of 'It Sucked and Then I Cried' and blogger at dooce.com is flamed on a regular basis for opinions and actions she shares online, including in my most recent memory, something as small as complaining about poor customer service.

A mother I follow was once berated and chastised when, while reaching out for help, tweeted that she had locked herself in a room separate from her screaming children because she was feeling on edge, and overwhelmed.

And of coarse I could write a whole post about the thousands of hateful personal attacks by many on the internet, including mothers, on famous moms Kate Gosselin and Nadya Suleiman. Both of whom, famous or not, attention seeking or not, are human beings with very real feelings.

On a smaller scale I have often seen message boards and chat lines explode with similar behavior over any and every issue.

Mothers, myself included, are horrendously hard on other moms, and the differences that divide us more often spark cruelty and conflict than understanding and acceptance, especially on the internet.

It is said that having children is like having a mirror constantly held up to you. Could it be that we moms are modeling cyber bullying in some way to our children? Or is it just in our nature to forget our humanity and decency when faced with a computer screen in lieu of a human face?


Stefanie said...

Interesting post... I honestly don't think we're any better than our children, whether we're parents or not. You just have to look at the media and politics to know that the yard or cyber bullying that goes on within children is just a more visible, less sophisticated version of bullying that exists in the adult world and is even accepted in many different spheres of influence.
I hope everything is working out alright for you :)

Erin said...

One of the things I thought when I was through with high school was, "Thank goodness... I'm done with having to deal with the mean girls."
And for a while, that was true.
...But then I had kids.

Moms are the epitome of mean girls. Moms are clique-y and harsh, just like those preppy girls from jr. high. The difference now is that it doesn't matter if they're popular or not. It just matters if they have the "popular" opinion. If I'm in a group of 4 women, myself included, and 3 of them formula feed while I breastfeed, chances are I'm gonna end up bullied. The same goes the opposite way. I hate to say it, but it's true!

I like to try to remain as non-judgmental as possible, I really do. But I admit that even for me it's hard not to pass judgment when I see a parent spanking their kid a little too hard or too frequently (in my eyes). Not to say that my behavior is acceptable by any means, I would like to note that I try to keep my opinions to myself where that is concerned. I don't want my kids to be the kind of people who make open judgments and accusations on others. I'm not sure how it's working out so far, but we'll see in time.