Bullying: There Are No Tough Guys on The Internet - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Tech Producer Tshaka Armstrong

Bullying: There Are No Tough Guys on The Internet

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In light of the story about 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, yesterday I wrote about the importance of having a realistic perspective of your child's potential for bullying, or being a bully and I can't say that I was surprised by some of the responses! "Kids these days are $#%^ies," or "What's the matter, they can't take some name calling. I would've bashed [the bullies'] face in." These comments coming mostly from men. I've been doing this interwebz thing a long time so I don't normally take the time to do this, but I think the sentiment needs to be addressed, man-to-man. Your macho crap means nothing on the internet and could be the very thing that turns your own child into a victim, or worse, the bully.

Let's establish something right here, right at the outset… I firmly believe in teaching a child to defend themselves! I'm a student of multiple martial arts disciplines, believe in corporal punishment, and have taught my own children that if someone ever puts their hands on you at school, after having exhausted all your non-violent options, you do your best to provide them with the proper motivation to never put their hands on you again. In other words, I do not suffer fools gladly! But that's me. A 38 year old adult. Children are human beings still learning how to handle situations, still finding their way and if you arm them only with their fists, they'll have no hand left open to hold on to the skills needed for many of the non-violent, non-aggressive resolutions to dealing with troubled people that they'll need in order to be successful in life.

Fists don't work on the internet! This isn't that time when you went to the park and fought it out with fists only and any beef was squashed. This isn't that day. This isn't your childhood. This isn't the time when parents were home by 6PM and one may have stayed at home and been there to meet children coming home from school and deal with issues. This isn't your childhood. This isn't your parent raising you based on the issues they themselves dealt with in the culture and society they grew up in. This isn't your childhood. I'm convinced that many of these children aren't getting the support at home that many of us received when we were young. Between hearing so many parents utter phrases like, "I just have to live my life" and technology moving faster than so many of us can keep up, many children are at a loss, leaving them to figure it out on their own. This means that children who are having the normal, pubescent emotional struggles and those having abnormal emotional issues may have those issues go unidentified, which can have terrible consequences. Acting on suicidal thoughts isn't "normal" behavior, so addressing it, or commenting on it like it is, is at best uninformed. Who knows how many of us might, even for a moment think "It would be so much easier if I didn't have to deal with this" but the actual thought of taking our own lives is as foreign to us as speaking Klingon. A child, any person who commits suicide, has a lot more going on internally than just those factors that lead to such a horrible act!

Tough guy, teaching your child that strength is punching someone in the face for something as silly as calling you a name is cowardly. No one learns "respect" from that and none is earned. There is always someone tougher than your child. "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction." Martin Luther King, Jr. said that. Let's state that again, "toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction." Look, our children are exposed to much more than we were ever exposed to as children. The internet puts both the best and worst of humanity right at their fingertips and in the process has diminished the compassion of many of our youths, making them hard-hearted in the process. Very little is taboo, or shocking any longer. Having news and information from around the world so accessible makes things that are horrible and shouldn't feel normal lose some of their shock value and feel like they're no big deal. Then, teaching our children to be "tough" and not punks piles on and adds to a lack of empathy. Instead of equipping our children so they're not punks, we must balance teaching them to protect themselves with teaching them to think about more than just themselves. We also need to get more involved as parents! Often, kids act out because of what they're taught at home so in addition to arming your children with the courage and strength to stand up for themselves, show up at their school and talk to the parents of the bully. The "toughest" thing you can teach your children is that you have their backs in word and deed and can solve problems with a calm head. That is what your children are going to need, a calm head. There are millions of trolls on the internet and at your children's school who would love nothing more than to get under your child's skin. Learning to ignore malcontents and those who wish you ill will go a lot further than proving your toughness by answering each and every one of them with your awesome strength. Trust me, they don't have enough strength to answer every negative comment that comes from the internet, or social media, or jealous, or hurting, or angry classmates but what you can arm your children with is the strength and discernment to see the pain in people, to see them with compassionate eyes and to understand their own strength, both mental and physical, so they know when to use which one.

If you want to find out more about what you can do to deal with bullying, it's National Bullying Prevention Awareness month and sites like STOMP Out Bullying have some great tips on how you can get active and involved.

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