90% teens on social media have witnessed online cruelty and it’s time parents and adults wake up and do the following…

It’s 6:30 AM and right on cue, Shelly’s alarm begins to blare the latest New Edition song playing on the radio. Usually, Shelly smiles as she rolls over and yawns. It’s always going to be a great day when New Edition serenades her out of bed. However, today is different. She pulls the covers over her head as she hears her phone vibrating and chiming next to her bed. One chime after the next…vvvvvvvvv, vvvvvvvvvvv, vvvvvvvvv, goes the vibrating phone. She knows what the early morning attention is all about and cries as she thinks about the ridicule she will have to face, in person, at school. Shelly looks at the phone and sees text after text as well as Facebook post after post calling her an, “Idiot,” “Skank,” “Hoe,” “Ugly whore,” and on and on the insults go. Shelly broke up with her boyfriend yesterday and he retaliated by telling everyone that he broke up with her because she was, “Doing everybody in the grade…even girls!” He then took pictures of a fat girl from some porn site and posted them saying, “This is what Shelly looks like naked…what a troll!”

As a teacher for eight years, I have seen this situation play out daily…all day, for the past eight years. I have had three students in one school alone over three years, successfully commit suicide and a score of others unsuccessfully try to, all in the name of, online bullies. The problems our kids are facing in this day and age because of access to social media and the internet are unlike anything we have faced growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. The problems are so bad, that unless you are a teacher or involved directly in the lives of children somehow on a daily basis, you just wouldn’t understand. Let me see if these statistics from the, Pew Research Center, help paint the picture a little better.

  • 90% of teens using social media have been witness to online cruelty.
  • 85% of parents with youth ages 13–17 report knowing their child has a social networking account.
  • 73% of teens say they have access to a smartphone, while only 15% say they only have access to a basic phone.
  • 80% of youth agree that it is far easier to bully online and hide from being a bully.
  • 68% of teens today agree that cyberbullying is a serious problem with today’s youth.
  • Only 7% of parents in the U.S. are concerned about cyberbullying.

As a teacher and a parent, here ‘s what I SEE with my own eyes:

  1. Parents are working longer hours and multiple jobs. In most cases, no parent is home for their children and rely on trusting the child to take care of school work and daily items.
  2. Many parents today are more concerned about being a friend to their children, than a parent.
  3. Parents aren’t disciplining their children and raising them with values and morals. There is no respect or manners being taught in the homes. Mainly because half of all homes are broken, with mom’s and dad’s divorcing. With the broken homes comes broken lives and in this day and age, the kids are being put on the back burner.

I could go on and on with what I see and witness as a teacher that the general public doesn’t get to see. I think the three items above are a small sampling of the problems leading to the increase in teen suicides, incarceration and overall dysfunction with our youth. But, I digress! Here’s the point. I have asked ALL of my 7th grade students if they honestly need a phone and they say…”NO!” I ask them, “If they do anything positive or good on social media sites or do they just stir up the drama and add to the misery in other kids lives?” The answer might surprise you. They overwhelmingly say, they don’t do anything positive or use social media for anything positive. They like to get on to see what drama is going on and add to it. Kids can be very honest when you need them to be :-)

So, what can we do? We know our kids are using smartphones in the wrong way, most of the time. I also know that there are teens out there who are great kids and use social media to run businesses and create awareness for injustices they are trying to stop. There are an overwhelming number of teens who are not doing that though. Now, I also know there are plenty of adults out there who don’t use social media properly and use it to spread hatred and ignorance. That’s a story for another day though.

This is about our youth this time. As adults, we MUST STOP giving teens and children tools to use that are designed for adults. A teenager really has no need for social media apps, none at all. The statistics show the reality that an overwhelming number of kids are abusing the purpose of a social media app and it’s creating horrific consequences in the lives of millions of kids.

As a parent, don’t do what every other parent is doing. You are the parent and CAN STOP the access your kids have to social media. Close out and cancel Facebook, Snapchat, Vine and every other account. Get rid of the smartphones for your kids. They don’t need them. All they need to have if anything, is a basic cell phone that they can call you on or contact 911 in an emergency. Not allowing our kids access to social media would save lives and a lot of trouble.

Just maybe, it would allow kids to start being kids again…and go outside to play. I know that we can’t stop all of the cruelty and injustice in the world. As parents and adults, we can do a better job of taking control back from our kids and do a better job of raising respectful, well mannered young adults who are passionate about making a positive impact in their communities.

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