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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Day 16: Kindness and Respect Challenge (You’ve got to be taught)

October 16, 2013

Rebecca Sedwick (2001-2013)

(See UPDATES below) Last month I wrote about Rebecca Sedwick, a 12 year old Florida girl who jumped to her death from the tower of an abandoned cement factory. Rebecca apparently couldn’t imagine another way to end the online harassment she’d suffered for months.

I desperately want to believe that adults who knew Rebecca would have supported her and effectively stopped her tormentors, if only they had known. But she didn’t feel supported. And the tormentors weren’t stopped. Was it because not one adult knew anything about what was going on all that time? I find it hard to imagine that one child in so much pain and a group of other children with so much hate-fueled energy could escape the notice of all the adults around them. But I guess it’s possible. We’re all so busy and kids are pretty good at hiding stuff they don’t want us to know about. But still…

BullyPolice.org, a well-respected watchdog organization that advocates for bullied children and reports on states’ anti-bullying laws, gives Florida an A++ rating. Great work, Florida. Laws change behavior. And yet, at least in this case, the law didn’t deter a group of children from maliciously harassing another child. I could be wrong, but because the cyberbullying took place in public over a period of months, I assume some adults knew who was involved.

According to the AP, Florida’s newly amended cyberbullying law “leaves punishment up to the school, but law enforcement can seek criminal charges.” I don’t know if any kids were disciplined by the school or their parents, but on Monday two girls, a 12 and a 14 year old, were arrested and charged with felony aggravated stalking. The 12 year old was once Rebecca’s friend. The 14 year old allegedly posted this on Facebook last Saturday: “Yes ik [I know] I bullied REBECCA nd she killed her self but IDGAF [I don't give a (expletive)]”

This toxic social garage stinks to high heaven. It’s now so typical it’s not really even news any more. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m disheartened. Which means I’m at risk for becoming desensitized to this cruelty. But I’m not going to let that happen. I can’t.

So I read some of the comments posted about this case. Many folks indicated that the girls were “just mean.” Meaning what? That cruelty is their nature and it can’t be changed, so why bother? These are kids, dammit. We are the adults. They learn from us. If we’ve taught them  not to “give a bleep” about anyone but themselves, then we’ve got to teach them something else. Otherwise we’re all bleeped.

Check out Day 17 of the Kindness and Respect Challenge

UPDATE: April 8, 2014 AP reports on Rebecca Sedwick’s case file.

UPDATE: November 21, 2013 Charges dropped against the girls in Rebecca Sedwick bullying case

 

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3 Comments »

  1. Perhaps it’s time to re-visit that song about racism (and intolerance) by Rodgers and Hammerstein from South Pacific…We must realize that we are teaching these kids to be hateful.

    “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” (Lyrics from South Pacific.)

    You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
    You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
    It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught!

    Comment by Michele Edelmuth — October 16, 2013 @ 5:35 pm

  2. Michele you and I are on the same page… of the Rogers and Hammerstein song book! I titled this post after the song you referenced. My parents had the original cast album of South Pacific and I listened to it endlessly. The lyrics to You’ve Got To Be Taught made a powerful impression on me and influenced my world view. In fact, I wrote a blog in 2008, during Obama’s first election campaign, that excerpts these amazing lyrics (all the more remarkable because they were written in 1949) fyi> Ihttp://blog.anniefox.com/2008/08/29/you-have-to-be-taught/

    Comment by Annie — October 17, 2013 @ 8:17 am

  3. [...] Check out Day 16 of the Kindness and Respect Challenge [...]

    Pingback by Day 15: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Taking the other guy’s point of view) | Annie Fox's Blog — October 18, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

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