Monday, March 3, 2014

Safety Behind Screens

Cyber bullying...the new fad.  "How would you like it if it were you?" we ask our kids.

Schools have assemblies about bullying.  Parents talk to their kids telling them how bad it is over and over again.  Speak up if you see it and report it to a responsible adult.  Companies pay obscene amounts of cash posting billboards.  There are TV shows and movies about it.  These are good things and should keep happening but what if some kids can't control it? 

When was the last time you were driving and someone cut you off.  Bet you said something like, "You effin jerk!!  Get in your own lane a$$hole." You said this because it happened so quick, you got scared but yet empowered because you were in your vehicle and they were in their vehicle and there was no way they heard what you just said.  If you were face to face with an individual and they accidentally stepped in front of you and you fell, would you immediately get up and say the same thing to them?  Probably not.  You would be exposed.  You would have to see their face.  They might react.  There would be immediate consequence for your words. 

It is so easy to sit behind a screen and say whatever you want.  Sending a derogatory email without picking up the phone is less painful, for you.  If you don't want to read the response back, then walk away. Turn it off.  Or feed into it and get involved but not really.  You aren't face to face with that person so you are brave and more vocal and more mean.

Kids are getting devices at a much earlier age.  My 8 year old asked me for her own phone.  Yeah right.  But there are kids in her class who do have cell phones.  Seems like 10 in the new age to get devices.  They text.  They take pictures. So they can keep in contact with their parents, maybe that's how it starts.  Then children get older and they get Facebook, accounts when they are younger than 13 with the parents permission, of course, because as long as the parent have the password, they believe their child will be safe. Wrong.  Kids are smart.  They know how to outsmart you and will do it over and over again.  They have friends who are more tech savvy than you.  They can block parents from seeing certain things.  Belong to secret groups.  All the while, hiding behind the screen.

My take on Cyber bullying. Some kids can't help themselves.  A young adult's prefrontal cortex is not fully developed yet.  This helps with reasoning and to control impulses.  It may take up to the age of 25 for these impulses to get under control.  If a mean thought pops into their brain, without thinking, it is circulating and sucking even more meanness into the situation.  Example:  if a girl wears something so 'awful' and someone takes a picture of it with a caption like, "WTF is she wearing?" then sends it around to her social media then don't you think, within the comforts of hiding behind a screen, other girls may then start to chime in without taking into consideration about the girl who's picture is now circulating around with more and more wicked comments are being said.  The girl sees it and is devastated and is now the target.  See how easy that was to start?  It is so simple to say things behind a screen and not face to face.  There is no consequence for the girl who started it, or very little.  Would she have walked up the girl initially and said, "WTF are you wearing?"  Doubt it.  Face to face confrontation takes way more guts and I bet that would help with their reasoning and controlling their impulses.  Cyber bullying is a safe way to bully and gains pack mentality quicker especially when hiding behind a screen. 

We do need to make the ones who start it accountable. Absolutely.  As parents we need to keep talking with our kids about the after affects of it all.  How it is not OK to do it and to report a problem if they see or hear about it.  We know all this.  They have heard it so many times. 

Lets try something new. 

How about less technology?  Take the phones away or maybe not have unlimited text?  Do they need to take phones and devices to school?  What happened to getting together and leaving the social media out?  Tell them it is OK to disconnect.  Spend non-tech time together and interact with friends more.  Wishful thinking.  Possibly. 

Times are changing.  Our kids have to manage all this technology thrown at them and learn how to be responsible at a much earlier age but if they aren't fully capable of that because of the way they develop then what are we to do?  

Going Old School-80's Sleepover
No devices back then, just talking.

*This writing is about cyber bullying and not about autism in general.  For more information about autism, please like the Grape Jelly on Pizza page or read other articles on autism in this blog.* 

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