Giving pre-teens and teenagers access to technology, where they can create fake profiles and taunt one another anonymously . . . what could go wrong? Dozens of young people have killed themselves after relentless abuse by their peers, and many more fall into deep depression and anxiety.
Many parents are simply clueless about imparting the lessons of boundaries and respect online. As a result, most children fall into the categories of victim, perpetrator, or bystander.
We need more young people to become Upstanders not Bystanders — that is, those who see abuse and report it. We need schools with clear conduct rules and consequences for behavior online and offline. Without these changes, thousands more young people will suffer, and some will die.
Did you know…
- Tyler Clementi was a Freshman at Rutger’s University. His roommate filmed him on a date with a man, and broadcast it. After this humiliation, Tyler killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in 2010.
- Megan Meier hung herself at age 13 in 2006. The mother of a peer created a fake MySpace account, and with her daughter taunted Megan by crafting and then destroying a fake relationship. This was too much to bear.
- 23% of American teens have a smartphone. Usually run by digital immigrants, few schools have policies about online behavior by students, and even fewer crack down with consequences.
- Most young people being cyberbullied hide it from their parents, due to shame or fear of getting in trouble.
- Obviously, combining a culture of speed and technology with the potential (inherent) recklessness of youth is a recipe for disaster, and we are seeing the results.