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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Where are the parents?

Had an interesting conversation with a couple of guys I know to varying degrees at my hockey game on Monday night.
We all make friends on Facebook. We all have different objectives. Some like to reconnect with old friends and schoolmates. That was mostly the reason I started on Facebook about 3 years ago.
Some like to make new friends. I began to do that, with varying degrees of success. But our conversation was more about the issues that Facebook brings up and the secondary issues that flow from that. In a way, they are a microcosm of the world at large.


Do we really know most people that we think we know?

 My friend Alex pointed out that he had friended many people from high school on Facebook that he barely knew in high school. I think we all come across that scenario. You go to a reunion (as he did) and you meet people that are friends of friends. Or maybe they knew you but you never knew them, or not well anyway and in any case barely remember them, if you remember them at all. Then, as you give them access to your Facebook page (and world) you find out the hard way what type of people they are. In this case, the person was a racist and a bully, and he had to be blocked. We rarely experience this in real life, because in the Facebook world, things happen faster and the pace of things is very much accelerated. If you didn't know someone well, you probably didn't know that they had racist or bullying tendencies. If you got to know them in real life, before they entered your inner circle you would probably see signs of that and exclude them before they did any damage. In this case, that didn't happen. Alex uses his page mostly for business contacts and he was concerned that the racist and bullying type comments would reflect badly on him. It is the risk we take on Facebook that we likely would not take in real life.


What can be done about bullies?

Another friend, Alan, noted that in high school he knew of this racist troublemaker and was aware that he was a bully. He knew this because this guy bullied him. We spoke about it and he related how he was only 12 at the time, and was small because he was a very late bloomer. When this kid bullied him (at sleep away Summer Camp), he tried to reason with him and asked him why he was doing it. To show just how ignorant this kid was then (and still was) he told Alan that the reason he did it was that he was the youngest of 4 boys and he always got bullied, so he thought he was entitled to do it to others. Most of us grow out of that, but in this case he never did. I suggested to Alan that the way to deal with these types of kids was to simply put a very major beating on them, as this was all they understood and the only way to make them stop. He said that it wasn't really possible. I said that you could take him by surprise in his sleep. Now, that does seem cowardly, but when dealing with bullies there are no rules of fairness. You do what you have to make them understand that they can't pick on you. Mostly, they wont ever learn either way and will end up adult bullies, as this guy eventually did. It is about standing your ground, not teaching or persuading them to stop, which they likely wont without very good reason.

 

Where do parents and teachers fit into this picture?

 My take has always been this: The problem rests with parents and teachers (in this case, Camp Counselors). For every bully out there, there is a parent who encourages this behavior and leads by example, or at the very least knows their kid does this and does nothing to stop it. In that way, they are responsible and should have to answer for this. If you make children you assume that obligation. If any kid of mine ever bullied another child, the least of their concerns would have been the other kid, or the school or society. Coming home that night and having to deal with me would have been the worst of it. Parents can stop bullying by making the child understand that you simply don't do it. 
Now, if a kid of mine was bullied, I would go straight to the parents of that kid and let them know if it ever happens again, I will take care of both their kid and the parent, and they simply don't want to have that happen. I give them the chance to correct it, but if it ever came to the point again where there was an issue, then all the rules don't apply and I would heap untold amounts of pain onto the parents, both to put a stop to it and set an example for their kid that the parents won't. Bullying others has consequences for you.
As for teachers and principals, they certainly see it, are aware of it and have an obligation to put a stop to it. If they don't, they should be fired for being incompetent. At the very least, they should report it up the chain of command and make sure the proper actions are taken to put a stop to it.
We see in the Joe Paterno case when that does not happen the results of that. A pedophile is free to end up doing what he always did, knowing the system won't stop him.  

Why do people use FB?

 We all have different reasons why we are on it. I think the most effective way to get the most out of it is to figure out what you want from it...first. Then, and only then can you make it work for you, instead of against you. And secondly, and this is very important, find out how the technology actually works. Know what your options are, what you are agreeing to and how to alter things very rapidly once they go against you. I would venture to say that 99% of people that use Facebook (and most forms of Social Media) have no clue how to use the technology they are using. These new products are set up by very smart people and are very complex. They know that only the very most tech savvy people will even attempt to figure them out. But, if you want the most from your experience, and to have it be a positive one, then you really need to put some effort into it. Most...don't.
You wouldn't drive a car without knowing how to use the brakes, the steering and all the controls and features that make it a good experience instead of a very dangerous one. Facebook is the same. 
Know your options and be careful who you allow in your world. 



 

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