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A (sad) prediction for 2011: Cyber Bullying will Rise

My sister called me and told me a story about my 11-year old niece, “Get this. I am sitting at my computer and I get a letter from her that says ‘Fuck you, I hate you.’ But, I can hear her in the other room watching TV. So, realizing she didn’t send this, I go through her sent mail and there are a handful of other hateful emails there, too.”

So it turns out that my niece had shared her password with a few other girls her age, and through a little more investigating my sister figures out that it’s a little girl in her class. When my sister confronts the other mom, the woman brushes it off and does little to punish her daughter. Naturally, my sister is floored.

Second case in point, I have a few young teenagers who I am Facebook friends. They dominate my feed with stupid crap, but I continue to follow because I know I need to see how kids are using it. I clicked one day on a video of a 13-year old “friend” doing an MTV Real World style confessional weblog about her getting braces. You can’t see it, but this is me wincing. So awkward. So candid. So on the internet for everyone in the world.

Here’s where the difference in bullying for the kids and the parents comes in. Every 11-year-old girl goes through a moment where her trust is violated – by a kid on the playground, a mean teacher, something. It’s part of growing up. But, those little moments of childhood drama aren’t relegated to just the playground anymore. Their effects are on a larger scale and more sweeping and impactful than we could ever imagine.

Protecting your kids isn’t just about reading their email or text messages anymore. This is about a generation of children who fundamentally relate to technology (phones, TVs, video camera, you name it) in a way that their parents do not.

I don’t want there to ever be another story like that of Rutgers’ student Tyler Clementi. But, I fear it. I just hope we can have a greater understanding of not only monitoring what a child is doing with technology, but also how they are relating to it. When we go a little deeper and think about the bigger effects technology has on our collective consciousness, we’ll have great understanding of what that means for our younger generations. Only then can we educate our kids about media that they understand more fully than we do.

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