The Terrible Tweens

Good Morning America on Cyber BullyingI am very late in commenting on this now historic event, but it has been “sticking” with me, so here is my 2-cents.

Regarding Jessi Slaughter and the whole cyber bullying firestorm, this event perfectly encapsulates why tweens (and most teens) should not have access to the entirety of the internet. Here is a site that lays out the entire series of events, please watch with caution.

Turn the clock back 30 years and this same drama plays out in a tween’s bedroom in Anytown, America and there is no harm done because that’s where it stays. When you add the medium of the internet and invite in the entire world, things can go bad quickly.

Developmentally, every tween is going to experiment with personas, fantasy, imitation and release. When this is done in the safety of one’s bedroom or rumpus room, without the medium of the internet, then all is well. Who doesn’t remember grabbing a bottle of shampoo and singing along to the lyrics of Michael Jackson or Madonna (I’m dating myself). In hindsight we realize we had no idea of what the lyrics really meant, it was more about embracing the style and culture of the “now” of our childhood.

Additionally, tweendom is a phase of development when it is literally impossible for the youth brain to concieve of long term consequences for their actions, ergo why we have parents in charge. Parents MUST make it their number one job to be well versed with what the tweens are dabbling in or else make entirely sure that they have absolutely no access to this level of potential harm.

It has been quoted by the mother that “she cannot watch over her child 24/7” so…shrug shoulders. This is not an acceptable stance. Parenting is not a task that we get to pick up or put down at will, to do only when we’re in the mood, it IS a full-time job and it IS your responsibility to monitor tweens’ activities. If you cannot or will not educate yourselves about the medium then remove all unsupervised access to the community. Set yourselves both up for an experience of success.

I post this as a cautionary tale and a visual reminder that our world has changed, that it is mandatory for parents to be aware of all online activities of their kids and to have a real grasp of what the medium offers, both good and bad. The web invites in the whole world, and even the most well-intentioned can stumble into foreign territory. Yes, they’re good kids, meaning no harm, but there are those out there who are looking to harm. It’s not appropriate to stick one’s head in the sand and state that “I just don’t understand it”. Our kids NEED us to understand it and keep them safe until they are old enough to do so for themselves.

The saddest part of this recent episode is how utterly unnecessary it was. If Jessi had been alone in her bedroom sans camera, this would not have been newsworthy, it would just have been a little girl experimenting and play acting, growing as all children do, in the safety of her home.

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