What is it about the comment section that makes people feel like they have free reign to act like complete and utter assholes? Seriously. Look at the comments section of any given article, literally any article, and you will find hoards of commenters that make the Joker look about as empathetic as Gandhi. I have made it a point to not let myself even read the comments anymore because I only end up sad, or in a rage, and with every comment I lose a little more of my faith in humanity. I just don't understand it.
Most parents strive to protect their children against bullying. According to the website AntiBullyingPro.com children are impacted by bullying in the following ways:
IMPACTS OF BULLYING
- More than 16,000 young people are absent from school because of bullying (6).
- 83% of young people say bullying has a negative impact on their self-esteem (8).
- 30% of young people have gone on to self-harm as a result of bullying (8).
- 10% of young people have attempted to commit suicide as a result of bullying (8).
- People who have been bullied are at greatest risk for health problems in adulthood, over six times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious illness, smoke regularly, or develop a psychiatric disorder compared to those not involved in bullying (7).
Cyberbullying has become the latest craze in bullying among kids. AntiBullyingPro.Com also provides the following statistics:
According to DoSomething.Com, nearly 43% of children have been cyberbullied. Of those who were cyberbullied, 25% have experienced it more than once. These statistics aren't even truly accurate because a large percentage of cyberbullying victims never inform trusted adults.
This is not okay.
So then why are we modeling this behavior for our kids? Why are we showing them that being callous, judgmental, and threatening is okay as long as it is masked behind the relative anonymity of the internet? The sadists behind the comments on internet articles are not teenagers. They are not young minds that aren't fully developed to comprehend the consequences of their actions. No. These are fathers, mothers, teachers, grandparents, presidential candidates. These are people who are loved, respected, and even idolized by the young minds in their families. These are the people who are showing children that cyberbullying is okay.
According to this study, about 40% of adults have been the victim of cyberbullying. 40%. The severity of online bullying in adults can range from name calling and purposeful embarassment to sexual harassment, physical threats, and stalking. Women are more likely to face the more severe circumstances of bullying. African American and Hispanic adults are more likely to by cyberbullied than Caucasian adults.
So the question is this: Why do people feel arrogant to the point that they believe their opinion needs to be heard? Does the internet suddenly bestow an aura of self importance and condescension upon you that blinds you to the fact that other people have thoughts, opinions, and feelings that deserve the same respect and empathy as your own?
Yesterday, a friend of mine left an innocent comment on an article about talented children--an inside joke between her and her sister-in-law. Her comment was about her own child. Wasn't directed towards anyone else. But these are some of the responses she received:
What in the actual eff?! Why are these comments even necessary? On the surface, they might not even seem that bad. But what is this teaching our children? That it's okay to objectify women? That a woman's looks somehow dictate her parenting skills? That it's okay to tell a complete stranger you would f*ck her?!
The saddest part about this exchange is that is on the tamer side of what I usually see in the comment section under articles. The amount of sexual harassment, racism, sexism, homophobia, and overall hate that occurs in those comment sections is enough to make me sick to my stomach. But, to impressionable young minds, this is the "cool" or "funny" thing to do. If you wouldn't be okay with someone speaking to your own child like this then why do you think it is okay to model the same behavior for them?
So, I ask you to speak up for the victims of cyberbullying. Desmond Tutu famously said, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Model for your children that bullying is not okay. Think about what you write before you write it. Think about what kind of human you are trying to raise. Just think.
We are stronger than the keyboard warriors. We can take a stand against cyberbullying.