I’ve put this post off long enough. A few weeks ago, two tragedies hit relatively close to home in my hometown and current place of residence, Queens, New York. A 14-year-old girl was fatally shot on the bus after attending a party. The shooting took place a few blocks from my home. On the day of the funeral, I learned from my first-grade son that the victim was the cousin of one of his classmates and the funeral was held at the church that runs my children’s school.
A few days after the shooting, a 12-year-old girl hanged herself with a belt from a ceiling fan in her bedroom, the result of being cyber-bullied. This little girl attended the same school as my best friend’s daughter, whose classmate was friends with the little girl.
Like many others, I am deeply affected by tragedies that involve children. When a child’s life is cut short, due to accident, senseless violence, abuse, or even at the child’s own hand, it cuts me like a knife. But something about these two stories, so close to home, and so close to each other time-wise, just shook me. In reading about the suicide, I learned that the little girl, who was a beautiful little girl, had been bullied about her looks and had once been attacked by girls at school, who then posted the attack on YouTube. Her parents were aware of the bullying, because the father had complained to school officials about the YouTube video. She also had Facebook and other social media accounts, where the cyber-bullying was taking place.
My heart goes out to the parents of the 14- and 12-year-old girls. And I can only imagine what goes through the mind of a parent whose child has taken her own life. Of course, I turned to my children, and my parenting choices. Please, don’t misunderstand; I am IN NO WAY saying that the actions of these parents had anything to do with the outcomes of the situations. I just think all of us would ask ourselves if there were signs of what was to come. All one can do is tighten the verbal communication reins, and more closely monitor, eliminate, or continue to keep our children away from social media.
How much do we talk to our children? Even at a young age, our children are experiencing far more than we did growing up. My six-year-old son told me last week of what a terrible day he had had – filled with ‘minor’ disappointments at school (not getting a toy during a school trip, a disagreement with a classmate, etc.). Even more important than how much we talk to our children is HOW we talk to them. How do we react to what they are telling us? Do we blow off their concerns, thinking “Oh it’s nothing”? Or do we show genuine concern and help them to sort out their feelings? Bullying is a lot different than it was when we were growing up. I find it interesting that the subjects of taunting are still the same – a child’s looks, grades, interactions with other kids, etc. However, the internet and social media outlets takes the bullying to a different level – instead of just being between the victim child and a small clique of bullies, the hurt is magnified as it spreads to other schoolmates over the internet and throughout social media.
The question also arises of how old children should be before they are allowed to have social media accounts, if allowed at all. I polled Facebook friends of This and That With Calandra. The average age was about 15, and some felt it depended on the maturity of the child. But all agreed that at any age, there should be strict parental monitoring. I have my own opinion about young teens and social media – they don’t mix. Who in the world do they need to be in contact with? As my mother used to tell us about using the telephone during the week, “You’re gonna see them in school tomorrow. Get off the phone!”
It’s tough being a kid these days. When we were growing up, the most we had to worry about was an after-school confrontation. We did not have to worry about being shot as an innocent bystander, or feeling so in despair about bullying that we needed to take our own life. The other thing that breaks my heart is the devastation done to their classmates. Growing up, because these things just didn’t happen, we didn’t have a need to see grief counselors, or have nightmares of some vicious attack on a schoolmate. I just continue to pray for the children, for the parents.
On a final note, This and That With Calandra would like to express our heartfelt sympathies to the family, friends, classmates and teachers of Gabrielle Molina, 12 and D’aja Robinson, 14. May they rest in peace.