Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bullying Gone Viral 2015

Bullying: the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuseintimidate, or aggressively dominate others.

Bullying has been around for as long as human beings have, and in one form or another, we've all dealt with it, known someone who dealt with it, or maybe even engaged in it ourselves at one time.  In our modern day however, bullying has taken on a more insidious form in that bullies like to take it online to social media. For lack of a better term, it's literally invaded the lives of kids and even adults in some cases.

In this case that I read about earlier this week, the story had nearly every single element of old school and modern bullying all rolled into one:

I've chosen to obscure the boy's face.
Dad finds out his kid has been bullying another kid at school, so dad decides to write this sign, have someone take a pic of him and his son together, then dad posts this very PUBLIC pic on his son's Facebook page with this comment:

"This is what happens when dad finfs out you are being a bully at school. My golden rule is you dont start fights or touch anyone unless they lay hands on you first. Feel free to tell kayden how wrong it is to be a bully or share stories to help him understand the effects of these actions on the victoms. DO NOT ATTACK MY SON THIS IS TO BE A POSITIVE ACTION NOT NEGITIVE. *******PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE THIS AS WELL TO HELP STOP THIS FROM HAPPENING OTHER PLACES AS WELL! THANK YOU!"

In the world of social media sharing, it didn't take long for this picture and this story to spread like wildfire and get picked up by numerous mainstream media outlets, bloggers, FB users, etc.  The image has been shared thousands of times from the original source, and God only knows how many thousands more from secondary sources.  

I first saw the article on The Blaze's FB page here, and left a simple comment:

"Publicly shaming your own child is never an appropriate form of punishment."
I had no idea the response would be as it was.  Overwhelmingly, on that page and on every other article I've seen on this, people are responding with such things as "way to go dad!" and praising this father for doing what he's done.  Color me shocked that parents would honestly believe publicly shaming their children online is an acceptable form of punishment or discipline. From the responses I have seen, people who think this is a horrible way to punish your kids seem to be in the extreme minority.

Here's what I think...

DISCIPLINE

Every parent needs to take a pro-active role in their kid's lives.  If they do something awesome, praise them.  If they do something awful, they need to be disciplined.  In this case, from what I've been able to gather (various articles say different things so I honestly don't know the facts), this kid was being mean to another kid at school.  I don't know if it was one time thing, an ongoing thing or any other details. Regardless, if he was engaging in bullying another kid that's serious business and at the very least he should have been made to apologize to the kid, and had some privileges taken away for a time. At the very least.  Anything else after that is certainly up for question especially if it was a one shot deal or an ongoing thing.

GOOD PARENTING IN A DIGITAL AGE

On the whole idea of posting this boy's pic, I'm honestly embarrassed for this boy.  Yes, I've posted it here as well (I've blurred the boy's face but the actual image is all over the internet) but sadly the horses are already out of the barn so there it is.  Not only did this father post a humiliating pic of his kid for the world to see, he told the world where the kid goes to school.  Hands down, across the board, in EVERY single online safety article, course, pamphlet, etc., guarding your privacy and that of your children is emphasized.  For the sake of "teaching this boy a lesson" he exposed him and his privacy to the world to see.  Not only that, he posted a humiliating image that will indeed follow this kid around for the rest of his life.  There is the potential now for every future employer or professional contact to pull this pic up.  As it's said, once it's out there, it's out there for good.

I don't know why this dad thought this was a good idea.  I don't know why so many parents agree with it.  I think most of them, if given the time to sit and think this one through, might think twice about such a thing.  Or, maybe not?  Maybe the whole idea of posting something that has the potential to "go viral" in our day and make you famous for a minute, is so enticing that common sense and good parenting just flies right out the window?  Maybe that's it.

Timothy Robenhorst (center)
Maybe instead of showing off his savvy parenting skills for the world to see, dad (oh, and this is dad, by the way, the one being praised for being such a great role model for his son, wearing a tee with a swastika on it and says the symbol represents his beliefs) could have mentioned to his son the recent story in the news about the little girl named Desiree Andrews with Down Syndrome who was bullied at middle school basketball game and had some pretty awesome classmates stand up for her? Desiree and the boys who stood up for her, as well as the kid in the humiliating pic posted by dad, are all roughly the same age, all in middle school, and so maybe dad showing his son what compassion, kindness, and real friendship looks like in kids of the same age, could have had a more positive impact on his son?

Maybe instead of jumping on the whole public shaming bandwagon that seems to be so popular these days, dad could have jumped on this golden, private, man-to-man teaching moment and had a heart to heart talk with his kid about what it might feel like for him, if he were born with disabilities or a physical disfigurement and other kids teased him or mocked him and made him feel like an outsider?  Maybe dad could have told him a real man, a real friend is one with honor and integrity and good character and instead of running others down, he comes to their defense if others are being abusive or hurtful to them?

As soon as I read this article, my 30+ years of parenting kicked in and I thought of so many different, very effective ways dad could have handled this issue with his son, without the public ever knowing about it.

Some of the comments on the original article I replied to assumed I had never been bullied as a kid so I had no idea what it feels like, and therefore don't understand why it's a good thing this dad did what he did.  Quite the contrary.  I was in fact bullied as a kid all the time.  I was born with a droopy, twitchy eyelid that (as a child, it's not so noticeable anymore) would twitch quite obviously whenever I'd eat or say certain words.  Almost like a marionette where you pull the strings and make it dance, my jaw muscles and eyelid muscles are attached in the same way.  So nearly every day at lunch I'd hear "watch when she eats, it's so funny".  Oh I'm sure it was a regular stand-up act for all.  It made me feel like a freak and I'd always eat with my head down facing my desk so no one could see my eyelid twitch when I'd eat.  Thankfully I did gain friends over the years who would stand up for me and eventually I got sick of it myself and started standing up for myself but yes, I do know what it's like to be bullied.  It's because I was bullied and publicly shamed as a kid that I would never even consider for a moment, to use that same tactic on a kid to teach them a lesson.  Especially when there are so many better ways.

After commenting on this at The Blaze the other day, I was going to leave it there.  I tried, but I really couldn't.  I suggested to a friend Andrew Lawton, the host of London Ontario's am980's afternoon talk radio show, that he should do a segment on this story as I believe it's a timely news item that affects so many people. He did a segment on it today and just like at The Blaze, it seems the majority of people responding were all in favor of the dad's actions in this story.

Like I said there... it honestly makes me sad that so many parents think it's perfectly acceptable to post humiliating pics of the own kids, online.  God help us all.