Friday, September 15, 2006

Mama Drama, Bullying, and Mean Girls

Last night I watched a news-type program on tv that looked at aggression among teenage girls and their ability to use today's technology to wield their social power. It really was disturbing.

"God, teenage girls sure can be bitches." John shook his head in disbelief. I was nodding in agreement.

What saddened me is that I've seen much of the same behavior in chat rooms and real life by grown adults. Adults who teach their kids, through their words and actions, that bullying other people is okay. This particularly damaging to the child that is the target. When Kevin was in grade three, a group of people at his school, including members of the staff, had decided that he was a bad child. He was struggling at the time with no accomodations for his learning disability and acting out by being silly in the classroom. The parents in the classroom began treating him with disdain and aggression, going so far as encouraging their children to call him names, scolding him in front of their kids, and reporting him to the principal for such mundane things as not zipping up his coat. The children responded in kind by leaving death threats in his desk, rotton fruit in his backpack, vocally boycotting his birthday party, and telling him to "Eff off". Parents would ignore me, refuse my attempts at conversation, and soon I was isolated as well.

Mean kids grow up, and while some abandon their ways, some take it underground and learn to use more socially acceptable tactics. As adults we can take action through stalking and harrassment laws, we are protected by our unions, etc. As parents we don't have to deal with these types of people every day. We have more freedom and choice to walk away, while kids are stuck in the same group of kids day after day for years. Even if the adults get involved and tell the kids to stop bugging another, it never really stops. And, what happens when the parents become frustrated and your child is the target? In my experience, they usually get away with it.

So, then, this is looking much like and chicken and the egg issue-and how do we stop it? I'm not so sure. However I don't believe that it's entirely a new issue, nor that video games and explicit music have anything to with it.

We learn how to treat people from our parents, and if Mama is some raging aggressive woman online in a chatroom, it has to come out somewhere. Kids aren't stupid. They pick up on that behavior. Before people start pointing the fingers everywhere else, maybe a good look at their own behavior is a good place to start.

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