Two months ago, I wrote a post about the people in my social network who use Formspring.me (a site that lets anyone ask you a question and then posts your answer publicly). I implied these people were egomaniacs, but in the grand scheme of things, so what if someone thinks they're so fascinating that folks are dying to ask them questions. Having an overly confident opinion of yourself might be a turn-off, but a big ego is generally harmless. Today, however, I read a disturbing article about how teens have now latched onto Formspring.me and are using it to up the bully factor on the web.
Think back to when you were eight, twelve, sixteen. Were there things about yourself that you were self-conscious about? Your nose? Your height? Your body shape? Your clothes? Now, imagine giving all your schoolmates an open forum to call you out on all that--even anonymously.
- How come you wear that stupid shirt so much?
- Why are you such a loser?
- Are you going to get a nose job anytime soon?
- Do you know what a skank you are?
- When are you going to wash your gym clothes?
All I have to say is I am so grateful not to be growing up in this day and age. Being a child was hard enough on its own.
If these sites had been around when you were a kid, would your childhood have been any different? Would you be the same person you are today? Might you be less confident or have more hang-ups? I can't help but to think this generation of kids could be spending a whole lot of money on therapists when they grow older...
I think you attract what you put out there. If you are confident and approach life with a smile on your face - you'll get more out of life and your experiences in general will be positive.ReplyDelete
My job as a parent is to raise the best kids I can so that even in this day and age - they will grow up strong and lead a positive life.
It's really a challenge for both kids and parents today - this generation is one of digital natives, yet most parents are not so it's hard to be taken seriously as an adult sometimes. Yet as you point out with these examples, the possibility for bullying and abuse is ample, and the ability to do future harm by what you post now is equally apparent. Education is the key on both fronts. Bullying is clearer and more immediate, so it's easier to talk about, I think. Plus, expecting kids to have the ability to understand how an action will have consequences 10 years out is always gonna be hard. Still, the longer we spend ignoring these issues, the worse off we'll be....ReplyDelete
I can honestly say I am extremely happy that I grew up when I did (70's & 80's). I've always been pretty good-natured and because of that I was an easy target when I was younger. Sure, like most kids I deserved some of the stuff that was thrown my way, but most of it was just bullying.ReplyDelete
I worry about my youngest daughter. She's 13 and her demeanor is a lot like mine. We've already had a few talks about how to deal with bullying, and she appreciated that. I wonder how much of the bullying epidemic is due to peer-pressure and how much of it is due to bad parenting. Also, as your article points out, the internet.
Sean: As someone who lives on Twitter and has young children, I appreciate hearing your perspective.ReplyDelete
I think about how powerful bullies can be and to empower them with these new platforms to intimidate classmates is so troubling. You are right in that being positive is the best way to go through life, I just wonder how eating disorders or teen suicides might increase with these new tools.
I'm sure as a parent who is very savvy about all this, your kids will fair very well in the social media terrain.
Greg: Since you're in the world of children's literature, I'm sure you and your colleagues hear this issue come up a lot. And to your point about the divide between kids and parents on the tech front, the article said that the majority of parents didn't even know formspring existed.ReplyDelete
I'm bet this issue provides good content for a whole new crop of children's books, doesn't it?
Tom: I'm with you. Growing up in simpler times was so much easier.ReplyDelete
I think the peer pressure part of it is definitely something that can manifest itself through social media. Kids who are not "brave" enough to be the schoolyard bully, but can spout off saying cruel things on a website seem like the area prone for the most growth.
That whole crowd mentality can kick into play so much more easily when kids can be mean without confronting their victims face to face. The keyboard can be empowering and also bring out the worst in people, can't it?
I think this is a tremendous problem and an important issue with kids these days and always has been - but now some kids can be bullies and hide behind a computer monitor and be mean annonymously so it's even easier. Of course, some adults can be as mean-spirited as kids but at least we, on the receiving end of such comments, have thicker skin (hopefully) and learn which comments matter and which ones simply do not!ReplyDelete
Deb: I completely agree with you. As for adults having thick skins, well, on some days my skin is thicker than others! Oh, to return to an age of etiquette and grace...ReplyDelete
I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am that I grew up in the pre-Internet days. I can't imagine how any kids survive the crap out there today. Kudos to all of you raising kids. It's hard for me to imagine a more challenging endeavor these days.ReplyDelete
Jayne: I echo your comment 100%!ReplyDelete