Senses are heightened around the Boston area. Cyberbullying is the toss-around word and it seems a lot of teenagers have a story which means it’s a part of the culture of going through adolescence in the 21st century. How bloody unfortunate because the bullied are under constant and unrelenting assault nearly every moment of their existence.
Most of those who are bullied say they’d rather take a beating than the abuse that’s heaped upon them in cyberspace. A beating, no matter how painful, has an end. Cyberbullying apparently does not.
The press about Phoebe Prince and the South Hadley Mean Girls, the lack of proper response of the school and administration and the recent arrests of 6 teens in connection with cyber torture of this poor fifteen-year old girl from Ireland who landed in the middle of nowhere Massachusetts only to have the misfortune of getting into the crosshairs of a popular, influential and thoroughly heartless 17-year-old girl has got us all scratching our heads and wondering, “How could this happen?”.
Oh yes, it’s terrific that we’ve “opened the avenues discussion” and (my favorite) “dialogue” about how to make the world a better place for our youth but that’s not going to bring back Phoebe Prince nor will it undo what must have been the saddest way to live before she decided to hang herself.
How do we protect those who are vulnerable to this form of abuse from the brutal existence that became her sad life? It used to be that when we thought of the dangers of the internet, it was with a vision of a pale, creepy, slightly sweaty pedophile living in his mother’s basement/converted torture chamber posing as the freshest version of a Jonas Brother or Miley Cyrus on the internet so he could get your daughter or son into his lair and the rest of what could happen is unthinkable….
Turns out teenagers–apparently without the slightest awareness from helicopter parents, have mastered the art of making life unbearably miserable, horrific and unthinkable for a group of targeted unfortunate kids. These objects of cyberbullying are usually outsiders, somewhat socially isolated in the physical world by the vagaries of herd behavior in adolescence. That unfortunate social status (which is probably 25% of an average high school body) is enough to make him or her the object of cyberbullying. Heaven forbid someone does something to piss off a popular or influential boy or girl! The pissing off part can be as much as going out with an old boyfriend (as in Phoebe Prince’s case) or as little as trying to “friend” someone on facebook. Unfortunately, the latter is probably most common, teenagers friend everyone. The act of “friending” someone who really would never be a friend in real life simply puts all the information, likes, dislikes, vulnerabilities and ammunition into the hands of someone who has a field day with a vulnerable kid’s “stuff”.
That proverbial field day seems to be the a source of endless joy for many teenagers. They become cyberbullies–they are so creative and relentless! They create hate groups that fans can join, they rally those fans to create more groups and visit various sites of the bullied to bombard him or her with countless ways to demoralize, insult and degrade. They use geolocation in their phones to follow and locate the victim, take pictures to post on hate sites or even the regular social network sites with horrible captions and descriptions. It’s out there for everyone who is important to the bullied boy or girl to see.
Respond? Retaliate? NEVER!!! That just makes the relentless torture redouble in its crushing assault on the bullied. Any response, especially a retort just fuels the fire of the assaults.
This systemic and unrelenting form of bullying has brought more than one teen to suicide. Phoebe Prince wasn’t the first by a long shot but the outrage of society had been, up until Phoebe’s suicide by hanging herself in January, largely missing.
What have we created?
O.K., finally there is a response, finally there’s a groundswell of appropriate tribal rage and societal drawing the line against…something. Who’s to blame? What the hell happened?
Quite a bit has happened. While parents are so busy giving their precious darlings cell phones to keep them safe (yeah, right. What’s the ratio of check-in calls to Mom or Dad to the number of texts to friends and status updates to social websites?). Oh and make sure the precious’s have laptops (with wi-fi) to stay up-to-the-minute for school work so they can get into the best college. It’s paved the way for a whole new way of existence has been created by kids that is heartless, soulless, influential and is forming the future. Obviously adults haven’t a clue how to reign this in.
Who knows how much time is really spent on sites like My Space and Facebook? Not to mention the other crappy sites that teens know about and parents don’t: Chat Roulette! Watch adolescents have sex and show their body parts from all over the world. How about the destructive sites like formspring that start out with good intentions: Teens post their profile, interests, hobbies with the idea that they can meet others of a like mind. It’s just a huge target for people like the South Hadley Mean Girls to anonymously, relentlessly and unendingly dump insult after insult. The saddest thing about this behavior is how quickly it became what teenagers do and how incredibly alluring it is to jump into the mob mentality of ganging up on the object of derision.
The South Hadley School Administration and teachers have been taking a proverbial beating in the fall out of Phoebe Prince’s death. Evidently she came to them for help in the increasingly intolerable toxic environment that was her school life. They did next to nothing which was really nothing. It turns out that some of the brutal comments or acronyms were posted on homework blogs that are supposed to be monitored and controlled by teachers. Those who are following this are wondering if any of the teachers or administrators will be among the next to be arrested.
My question about all this is,
Where the fuck are the goddamn parents? Where the blazes are the parents while their children serially torture their victim? Seriously? Most kids of an age less than 15 don’t go out and buy themselves a smart phone and a computer. Where the fuck are the assholes Where lies the responsibility of the adults that put these weapons of serial torture into the hands of the heartless humans that killed the likes of Phoebe Prince? And as the story evolves, they continued the assault on the memorial sites after she died?? Wasn’t the mission accomplished?
Finally, most heartbreakingly, where was her mother when this misery happened day after day? How was it that the realm of treatment on-line is so clearly separated and lonely, devastatingly destructive to this young girl and she couldn’t tell her mother? We still have no real idea of the depth of hate nor its volume in the bombardment from the Mean Girl posse to Pheobe Price. From what is indicated, it was epic, it became what the Mean Girls did and it was inescapable to the object of their hate.
None of those who drove Phoebe Prince to suicide were emancipated, they all had a home with at least one parent in it. How can such evil live in a house without a parent realizing it? Is this a case where ignorance in accepted in the eyes of the law? Will the parents be the next group of accomplices to come under scrutiny in the sad case? If not, why not?
What have we created?