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Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

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

From the “Say it isn’t so” files

January 8, 2011

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Forgive me if I’m not my usual perky self. It hasn’t been a great news day for those of us hopeful about the inherent goodness of humankind.

Let me explain. This morning I read about the arrest of six kids in Carson City, Nevada. What had these 12 and 13 year olds girls done? Apparently one dreamed up a Facebook event called “Attack a Teacher Day” and invited 100 students to join. The other five got busted for responding to online threats against specific teachers in two middle schools.  According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune the six girls were “booked Wednesday at juvenile hall on a misdemeanor charge of communicating threats.” Thankfully a parent saw the “invite” and deleted it. No one was physically harmed.

Thinking about it, there’s so much wrong here I didn’t know where to begin. So I posted to my anti-bullying forum Cruel’s Not Cool! to start a discussion. I posed some questions: What might have been going on in the mind of a kid who thought that “attacking” teachers was a terrific idea? Why might the participants have decided to get on the bandwagon? What role does Facebook or any social media site have in monitoring illegal content like threats to someone’s life? In what ways might the charges against the tweens be totally appropriate or totally absurd? What’s the role of parents in raising kids of good character and teaching their tech savvy darlings to be responsible digital citizens?

But before any responses were posted, I read about an actual attack this afternoon. A politically motivated assassination attempt on the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). The Congresswoman took a bullet through the brain and she’s currently in critical but stable condition. So far at least 6 people are dead. Among them, an aide for the Congresswoman, a 9-year-old and U.S. District Judge John Roll.

Kids openly tease, harass, persecute and physically attack peers whom they “don’t like.” If school bullying and disrespecting teachers is ‘no big deal’ (and many students say “nothing happens” when bullying is reported), it may not take much reasoning to conclude that it’s also OK to gun down someone we disagree with. Not that anyone capable of this behavior has much in the way of reasoning powers, but you don’t need that to buy a gun.

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