Please take a minute to read this.
Sometimes, even with the best intentions, we unwittingly sleepwalk into the path of the majority, swept along by the tide of what the people around us are doing. And the people around us these days, in the technological age, are “connected” (I write the word in quote marks). I was in the subway in Singapore a few months back, and I was the only person in the carriage who was not staring into my smartphone like a zombie, totally oblivious to the ‘real’ world.
But let me tell you why it is so important to disconnect your child to the cyber world, to claim him/her back, and ground him/her in the real world. The internet is a beast that can be either your friend or your foe. Like for example, you can participate in virtual classrooms and visit amazing places without leaving home. It’s powers are great, for good and also for bad. And sometimes, the power of the internet is just too great for vulnerable young people to bear. What that used to be minor misdemeanour (bullying even) once upon a time can grow into something horrendously huge, spreading like wildfire, claiming young lives sometimes. Yes, cyber bullying is something to be reckoned with.
Sadly, in this technological age, no child is safe from cyber bullying. It is worse than playground skirmishes that we are familiar with in our time, because cyber bullies gets into your home, your child’s bedroom and spreads like wildfire, gathering force amongst the perpetrators.
Take for example a few months ago, someone posted a photo of my daughter at a party and made horrible comments about her dress on Facebook. In olden days, it would just be a bunch of girls whispering disparaging marks about their victim, without the cruelty going beyond the gang and perhaps their circle of school friends. But in this technological age, that photo of my daughter and its offensive comment, spread like wildfire, across countries and age groups. In no time, that post was “liked” countless times, even by adult strangers, all with their knives out. Many waded in with equally cruel comments. Some shared the photo, adding their very hurtful criticisms. It was like blood sports, attacking a girl online, probably because there are no repercussions to this form of bullying.
“Over 600 people liked that comment about me,” my daughter said wryly. “And 104 shared it. The weird thing is I don’t even know most of these people.”
So much hatred and anger, which spilled over as malice and viciousness.. And in those who are so young, too. I was saddened by it.
Fortunately, she could laugh this incident of cyber bullying off. Because her cyber life has never been important to her. I looked into her social media accounts and they were largely inactive. She barely goes there, so it didn’t really matter to her what people said online about her.
Thus, my first advice is, ensure that your child is not overly reliant on the cyber world, even if it is just watching youtube.
“Say it to my face, then,” she retorts. “If you dare.”
Many don’t. In fact, most don’t. What I find strange is, some of the cyber bullies are nice to her to her face! Why? Because it is all too easy to follow the crowd, as the video attached to the top of this post shows.
My second advice (which is perhaps more important than the first) is to teach your children that none of this matters. The point of reference is the family and home. Always.
And when something really did bother my daughter, I went to her bedroom where she was crying, put my arms around her and told her,
“None of this matters. Hush. Close your eyes. Imagine you are in the car with us and your brothers and sister. We are all driving home to Portsmouth. The sun is shining. Your brothers and sister are laughing, making jokes. Your parents are joining in. The music plays. We are looking forward to arriving in your grandparents’ house. Think about the food you find there and your comfortable bed.”
Because that’s real life ❤
Photo: Bluebell woods of Hampshire, where we come from. Yes, they’re real 😀