Monday, February 27, 2012

No Escape: Does Wired World Feed School Violence?

We are all reeling from the news of the school shooting in Ohio by an alleged bullying victim. And news of another unfortunate tragedy in California made recent headlines: two fifth grade girls get into a fist fight over a boy at their after school program. One girl loses her life.

The national news story by the Associated Press and run in several publications today, detail the sad events that lead to the girl's death, presumably by a fatal blow to the head.

A statement by a "national expert on bullying and school violence" at the end of the article caught my attention:
Fights involving young children, including girls, are increasing nationally, in part because of the wired world children now live in, said Travis Brown, a national expert on bullying and school violence.

Children used to have a disagreement at school and would have a night or a weekend to cool down, but social media and text messaging mean students can continue their dispute 24 hours a day, he said.

Social media sites also allow other students to weigh in and amplify the pressure to settle things in a public way, said Brown, who runs the website

"There was a time when a kid had a way to escape the things at school, but now there's no escape," he said. "That stuff just escalates to a point where it gets out of hand. This is an everyday occurrence."
One parent, whose daughter witnessed the fight, also said something important: "We've just got to pay more attention to our kids too, not just [when] dropping them off at the school."

Adolescence is such a difficult time for kids, especially girls. When I was growing up in the 80s, it wasn't labeled bullying. But that's exactly what it was. The hard times that I experienced as a preteen and teenager deeply affected who I am today, and perhaps that is why I'm already worried about my girls' welfare, even though they are still in early elementary school. Life for young girls just seems to be getting tougher.

What are we parents to do? Pay more attention. Support and protect our children. Stand up for them and parent our kids through this tough age the best we can.

One place to start is a cyberbullying tool kit by Common Sense Media designed for parents, educators, kids, teens and school administrators. Bullying and violence prevention is a topic dear to my heart, and unfortunately it doesn't seem like a problem that will be going away very soon.

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