I have been writing and speaking about the now documented, deathly consequences of BULLYING for over 15 years. I started a national campaign in Canada and the United States – a BAN BULLYING campaign –10 years ago. I (and assistants) took the issue to elementary schools, secondary schools and traveled constantly for two years to assist communities to establish preventative, interconnected social networks, including school administrators, teachers, school psychologists, parent representatives, police specialists and others to nip tragedies in the bud and to deal with a suicide, death(s) or serious injury resulting from bullying.
The greatest cause of death among 10 to 20 years old is suicide – it is an epidemic. Among adolescents who take their lives, over 95% of them have been bullied, rejected, mocked and belittled by the “microcosmic majority” that runs the schools and define the school and schoolyard environments.
As parents and teachers (and non-parents and non-teachers), we have a peripheral, if not clear sense of what is going on among adolescents but we appear to have no way to halt what is a growing, not a diminishing problem. In fact, when there is no apparent early damage (i.e. a suicide or suicide attempt as a result of unmitigated cruel attacks), both the victim – replete to over-flowing with suppressed rage - and the bully and quasi-sociopath, join the community of epidemically problematic adults.
Upping the Ante
Now there is a super-violent nether land for children of all ages. Apple just recalled a cartoon video game (as a result of some limited but powerful pressure) that showed, in detail, how to kill a sister or a mother. In fact, to “win”, the player has to kill the subject, and then repeat the game for efficiency and winning points. Another video game, still on the market, and on the internet (it shall remain unnamed), also in cartoon form, shows how to kill – anyone. It encourages the user to improve his or her skills, thus, once again, triumphing over competitors. If it isn’t clear already, the cartoon nature of the games encourages young children to play them. Older children (aged 11 to 18 plus) are using the game to up the bullying factor with terror. The majority plays the game in groups (more like violent gangs) and assigns a bullied subject’s name to the process and broadcasts the same. Ninety percent of the “fun” is to ensure that the victim knows he (or, less often, she) is the victim of an efficient, repeated, varied, creative and definitive cyber-death. Hourly, daily, on week days and weekends, in addition to the more traditional forms of deadly bullying, the victim is informed via email, telephone and in strategized face-to-face encounters, that they are being slaughtered. What is being done about this new and evolving form of cyber-murder? Whether the death is of a soul or of a child’s life? Nothing.
In one of my books in which I discuss the challenges and dangers surrounding, even subsuming our youth, Hard Lessons – Addressing the Dangers Facing Today’s Youth, I made what seem like ridiculous (or impossible?) recommendations to parents about monitoring their children’s internet usage. I suggested only having one PC in the house and locating it in a central area and limiting the time children can spend on it. The computer has to be used for homework – child-students now use them in the classroom. However, “online time” can be restricted. Built-in parental restrictions are too easy to get around. An adult has to be the “PC Police”. What is open to our children and what can be shot at them in email is now just too darn dangerous to treat lightly. This is an urgent and still unaddressed matter. Parents cannot always be around or, as much as they try, are unable to monitor what a child, especially a teen, decides, by hook or by crook, to do. I know. I have counseled the parents of children both dead and living who did everything they could to protect their children from the dire consequences of open, unlimited internet usage and borrowed or purchased violent, video games.
WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?!
Bullying and the increasing use of the internet to bully, as well as to find other dark and violent spaces and activities, is no longer just a parental or school (teacher) issue. The data on bullying and child suicide has been “out there” for years and is currently more disseminated than ever. With the added instruments available on the internet, we are allowing bullying and the increased ante provided by cyberspace to be a part of our children’s lives. Whether they observe or participate, they are being affected. Fifty percent of teen internet users admit to using “killing games” of some kind, as part of a group, to harass and frighten a victim. They admit to the same with mirth, not remorse or empathy. Forty percent of adolescent internet users admit to being attacked, threatened or “killed” online – a cyber-world that is lawless, unregulated, without boundaries, protectors, families or best friends. It is all unreal and superficial, until it comes to death.
So what, that we didn’t see this coming! It is here and it is a major part of modern life. It is a predominating part of our children’s lives.
HAVE WE GONE COMPLETELY MAD? OR ARE WE GOING TO ADDRESS THIS AS A COUNTRY AND AS A CULTURE?
Please respond with suggestions. Join me in a national conversation toward finding and demanding support,including from internet providers, to remove this instrument from our children’s lives. If we can “GPS” everyone who uses a cell phone, we can eliminate the killing games.
Dr. Lauren can be reached by submitting a comment. Comments will be forwarded directly to her.