This parody of the popular sketch "Celebrities Read Mean Tweets" from "Late Night With Jimmy Kimmel" isn't funny at all. And it's not supposed to be.
Bullying looks completely different in the digital age.
Back in the day, being a bully required size and/or confidence. Bigger kids with even bigger personalities had to do their intimidating in person, either in the classroom or on the playground. Essentially, the end of the school day also meant the end of the taunts and torments. These days, social media has completely changed the bullying game. Kids are plugged in to their smartphones 24/7, which means they have access to each other on networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat long after class ends. And while social media has proved to be a great way to make and stay in touch with friends, it's also a breeding ground for those looking to harass and torment others nonstop, all behind the veil of anonymity.
When teens are asked about their experiences with online bullying, the responses are quite scary.
Cyberbullying isn't just "kids being kids." The consequences can be extremely painful and even fatal.
Too often bullying is downplayed as just a part of growing up. And while bullying isn't new, in many ways online torments are even more painful because the Internet gives tormenters 24/7 access to their victims. Not to mention, once those nasty messages and photos are online, it's almost impossible to have them removed.
In recent years, numerous young people have taken their own lives after being tormented by their peers online. Amanda Todd and Tyler Clementi are just two of too many young people whose lives ended in suicide after struggling with online bullies. And in 2013, two teen girls were charged with felonies after a 12-year-old they had bullied on Facebook committed suicide. So while some kids are able to recover from being picked on, not every case has a happy ending.
What can parents do?
Sometimes there are clear signs that something is wrong, such as failing grades, irritability, insomnia, and unhappiness or depression. But many kids who are struggling with bullies are afraid or embarrassed to talk to their parents or teachers and instead keep it to themselves. That's why it's important for parents to talk to their kids and check in with them regularly so they know they have someone to turn to if something is wrong. Here are a few tips for parents to make sure their kids aren't dealing with bullies and aren't bullying others:
• Talk to teens about cyberbullying, explaining that it is wrong and can have serious consequences. Make a rule that teens may not send mean or damaging messages, even if someone else started it, or suggestive pictures or messages or they will lose their cell phone and computer privileges for a time.
• Encourage teens to tell an adult if cyberbullying is occurring. Tell them if they are the victims they will not be punished, and reassure them that being bullied is not their fault.
• Teens should not share anything through text or instant messaging on their cell phone or the Internet that they would not want to be made public — remind teens that the person they are talking to in messages or online may not be who they think they are, and that things posted electronically may not be secure.
• Teens should keep cyberbullying messages as proof that the cyberbullying is occurring. The teen's parents may want to talk to the parents of the cyberbully, to the bully's Internet or cell phone provider, and/or to the police about the messages, especially if they are threatening or sexual in nature.
Thankfully, organizations like the Canadian Safe School Network, which created this parody, are working to increase awareness and find new ways to combat online bullying. Here's hoping that more parents, students, and faculty can work together to keep our kids safe online and give them the confidence to stand up to bullies online and off.