An article from the LA Times written by Jessica Guynn and Janet Stobart about the social networking site Ask.fm caught my eye this morning. This site is catching major flak because of it’s being linked to 4 teen suicides. But is it really the fault of an online site that teens are committing suicide? I don’t believe that’s true.
I have written before of my belief that bullying that occurs online is just an extension of what is happening in real life; in school, on the bus, at parties etc. Cyberbullying makes what is going on or said in person go viral instantaneously, and so I am aware of it’s reach and power. But social networking sites don’t create relationship aggression problems, they just exacerbate them.
In a previous blog, http://wp.me/p3BKeg-6K, I encouraged parents to not allow kids to be on these kinds of sites until they were at least in high school and had a good track record of responsible behavior with other technology usage, and with impulse control and decsion making. Every teen should receive extensive training/education on the right way to use these sites, the consequences to other people of bad behaviors, and online civility and ethics. And parents should monitor their teens usage to make sure that they are being mature and appropriate. If parents did their part as described above, I believe it would prevent a lot of the abuses of this priviledge.
The LA Times article also described how a girl was bullied by kids calling her fat and a loser and asking her: “Can you kill yourself already?’ Anytime someone calls you a name or says something like this, it is disrespectful and inappropriate. And, we should be teaching our kids at home and at school about how to handle teasing and bullying so that it doesn’t cause you to take it on or feel hurt or provoke a reaction.
In my new book, Sleeping Beauties, Awakened Women; Guiding the Transformation of Adolescent Girls, http://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Beauties-Awakened-Women-Jordan, I wrote 2 chapters on how to help girls learn to deal with and prevent teasing. Girls can learn to not give their power away to other people and to remain in charge of their feelings and reactions. It’s a challenge, I know, but one that girls can achieve with our support and with practice.
Instead of blaming Ask.fm or other sites, we need to point the finger at ourselves and do a much better job with our part in both preventing bullying and educating girls about relationship aggression.