I remember full well the feelings I had as an angsty, awkward, sometimes lonely, boy crazy, perpetually heartbroken twelve year old girl. Kids should not follow kids they don’t know ‘In Real Life’ (IRL) online (e.g., friends of friends, etc.). Allow me to explain.
I clearly remember listening and crying often to… wait for it… Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself”. I kept a diary with a little lock on it to write down all of my melancholy, secret thoughts, hopes and dreams. A friend reminded me that for centuries girls have kept diaries, written lines on paper, scribbled doodles outlining feelings they might not want to share with anyone else. God only knows what I was writing back then – but I’m sure looking back today I would probably find myself to be more than a little *emo and dramatic.
*Just asked Soph if the kids are still saying ‘emo’ – she says “not really”. Whatever. I’m trying to keep up, seriously.
Today, anything goes. Kids from as young as 6, 7 & 8 on up are all over Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, KiK and (insert every other new app that is impossible to keep up with here). Sometimes kids are looking for attention, sometimes they are being bullied. Often, it is difficult to decipher what is real and what is not. It is difficult enough as an adult with the ability to analyze a potentially serious situation – how can anyone possibly think or expect that a young person can sort it all out?
Consider this scenario – I am using Instagram as the example:
Your kid is following x number of people on Instagram. Many of them are other kids, maybe friends of his or her friends, whom your kid does not know personally. There is real social status attached to having many followers and it is tough for most kids to ignore. Perception is reality.
Suddenly, someone gets wind of a kid who has been being bullied – kids telling her to “die” and “go kill yourself”. This spreads to the point that your kid (who doesn’t actually know this kid) sees a post from this person saying something to the effect of they “give up” and “if you don’t see me here after this, it means I’m dead.” Wait, what?! Immediately, your kid goes into freak out mode and starts texting her friends about this kid who’s going to kill herself and there’s a flurry of conversation about what to do about it because they “don’t EVEN REALLY KNOW her”, but “how sad” and “OMG, someone should call the police!”
Please tell me you can see how this might be disturbing, cause unnecessary upset, worry, anxiety, feelings of helplessness?
I implore every parent who allows their kid(s) to be socially active to use this as an example of why – at a young age – they should not be following other kids that they don’t really know.
Suicide-speak online is nothing to joke about. Every parent should teach their kids to take it very seriously. If your child sees someone online making these types of comments, please tell them that they must come and show you immediately so that you can check out the situation and contact that child’s parent. If it saves even one life, it’s worth the discomfort you may feel making that phone call.
Alternatively, and because I understand that there is potentially a “this is none of my business” mindset, I think every school should encourage and allow students to report instances of online bullying or being witness to a student’s online posts about wanting to hurt themselves or others anonymously to a Guidance Counselor.
I feel it is important to share that last night, after I posted this on Instagram, almost immediately it was liked by a young girl with a “Secret Account” (but public profile – does not follow me and I do not know or follow her), whose bio tells us, “No one hates me as much as I hate myself.” Her posts are filled with hashtags like #suicide (which is probably how she found my post), #anorexia, #cutting, #depressed and more. As a mother, it saddened me and my immediate thoughts were, where are her parents? Who can she talk to? Why is no one paying attention to this child?
How real should my worry be about a thing like this? I can’t know… because I don’t really know her.
What are your thoughts on this subject?
Thanks for stopping by,
ox J. J.