A few years ago we were exposed to the sad, sad tale of young Amanda Todd and it is one that is still worth reiterating. Amanda was the 15-year-old Miss from the greater Vancouver area who attested that she was the victim of relentless cyber-bullying and posted a clip on the Internet in which she threatened to kill herself. And then did just that.
I will refrain from posting a photo of young Amanda because I don’t want to hit her suffering parents with even more exposure to that familial tragedy. In fact, I won’t dwell too relentlessly on the sad case of Amanda except to look at the concept of bullying in general.
To cut to the chase in the case of Amanda, however, what happened is a creep – posing as an adolescent male in the Internet – talked young Amanda a couple of years earlier into baring her titties on the Net. And as these things go, it went viral. Furthermore, stats show that Amanda is far from alone in exposing intimate bits for public scrutiny – especially amongst the younger female population, but for some reason it ate at her right to the core. She found herself mocked and victim of nasty shithead attacks from both males and females. Oh, and it turned out that the creep who talked her into exposing herself was far older than an adolescent. Same old story, with different details and in this case a horrific and sad ending.
Cyberbullying has, of course, put a new complication to a human behavior that is as old as humanity. Certain people see it as their role to make the lives of the alleged ‘weaker’ a misery. But, with kids today it is so out there and the cowardly knaves (and your parents were right, bullies are invariably cowards) can hide in electronic anonymity whilst they torment their victims. All I can say is that parents must be ever-vigilant of a kid’s electronic behavior.
Of course the invariable cry is for officialdom to ‘do’ something? What? Bully the bullies to make them stop? Pull out all stops to protect the victims? Bring in harsh punishments? New strictures are about as effective as ordering a drunk to stop drinking. It never works. He’ll drink in defiance and will only quit when he (or she) makes that decision – or not.
But, as I suggested, bullying is endemic to the beast. I remember kids who were bullied and, in some respects, they invited it. Not consciously, but there was something in their bearing, appearance and attitude that seemed to provide an invitation. Other kids, often equally geeky or unfortunate in appearance in those awful cesspits of human interaction, junior and senior high schools, were never touched. I’ve never fully figured out why.
I can honestly state that to my recall, I was never victimized by bullies. That isn’t because I was in any way cool, especially not in my elementary school days. I was the geekiest looking little bugger that you could find. Added to which, I wore glasses. How bad is that? I made Leonard on Big Bang Theory look like Joe Cool. Think of the kid in The Christmas Story with his specs and bunny jimmies and that was kinda me. But remember too when he was pushed to the limit he pounded the shit out of the neighborhood bully.
No, I wasn’t bullied. And I have no specific answers as to why. I can, however, think of two things. One: I had a sense of humor. I was funny and I could make kids laugh. Two: (and maybe more important) I was pretty good with my fists. I wasn’t athletic and I looked like a nerd but I could throw a punch if goaded sufficiently. That gets around. Despite the Biblical adage about turning the other cheek (which actually can also work in some instances of bullying; just ignore the pricks and they might stop), sometimes it is necessary to smite your enemy or make a good job of trying. That gets around. Just like Ralphie in Christmas Story.
My convoluted point is bullying is never going to go away but there are techniques that kids can learn to offset the rigors of gratuitous cruelty. They should be clear that society will always have its ‘Blutos’ and they won’t go away when school days end. You’ll later find them in offices and other adult walks of life. Learn to deal with them.
As for kids, as I suggest, parents should be vigilant and advice to younger ones is keep your shirts and pants on because those electronic pictures will last forever.
None of this will bring poor Amanda back and my heart goes out to her family and friends, but parents must take steps to know just exactly WTF is going on with their kids, take pains to provide really honest (and non-shocked) help and perhaps avoid future Amandas, may she rest in peace.