Monday, Oct 20, 2014
Columns

Maglio: Parents, not government, must combat bullying


Published:

Dissatisfaction of parental stress and burdens of raising a child has played a role in the expansion of the federal government. There are government programs to feed children three meals a day. Government schools are requiring students to start school at the preschool level and many now offer toddler programs. Traditional family functions are being replaced by the government's expanding its reach into the daily lives of families.

Modern parents are unwilling or unable to monitor the child's interaction with peers especially on the Internet. A youngster harassed by another child can be reluctant to have his parents become involved as she would lose any appearance of being "cool." Eventually a continual escalation of the situation could end in a youngster doing harm to herself or others. Suicide or horrible mass shootings are usually attributed to people who have been bullied. This has resulted in some law enforcement officials taking a direct role in interfering in disputes between children and their families.

Exploiting tragedies is a method for a government official to gain notoriety and increase the power base by usurping the power of the parents. In Polk County, a frequently grand standing sheriff, Grady Judd, has revived a year-old suicide of Rebecca Sedwick, a 12 year-old. This child had significant mental health issues unrelated to the harassment by these other teens. Her mother, Tricia Norman, was aware of her psychiatric issues but was unwilling or unable to pull the plug on her social media interactions. Instead she plans to file lawsuits, which will not bring her daughter back.

On national media Judd announced he was arresting a 14-year-old for the felony of aggravated stalking and then he went on to name her. He stated he was naming the 14 year- old and a 12 year-old bullying accomplice after the 14 year-old's hateful Internet posting that she didn't care about the girl's suicide and "go jump off a building," the sheriff stated he had to make an example of her.

Sheriff Judd said he thought her cyber bullying would continue with other individuals. This supposedly was his justification for announcing these juvenile's names and accusing them of a crime. His arrogance of being judge and jury was reprehensible. The case was dropped a month later due to a lack of evidence.

The hysteria over cyber bullying is intensifying. People are coming out of the woodwork telling their stories of how they had to face the terrible experience of being verbally abused on social media. They cite cell phones, chat rooms, text messaging, Facebook or other social media where people's comments disturb and belittle them. These are nuisances not criminal acts.

Some pundits are even calling cyber bullying a hate crime though there is no defined group from which victims are selected. It is not usually motivated by hate for racial or ethnic reasons. Often it is the cynical process of probing the emotional and psychological weaknesses of others to feel superior by dominating another. This domination of others has been a part of human nature from the beginning of time. Parents have to counteract this human frailty by teaching their youngsters empathy for others as well as how to stand up against attempts to demean them or witness their child being abused by others.

It is part of the role of a parent to protect their children from others who have an unfair advantage over their child. This can be anything from giving them appropriate language to combat put downs and taking away their phone, social media, or other privileges to prevent them from interacting with mean spirited children who can hurt them. The police should not enter the picture unless a viable threat is determined.

Too many tweens/teenagers are becoming weak minded. Instead of ignoring the obnoxiousness of another or cutting off interaction they continue to allow themselves to be tormented. Too many parents are too weak to stop negative relationships that their child might be having. Instead these harmful relationships are allowed to continue.

Parents have to inspire their children to have the courage to stand up for themselves. This can only occur with involved parents creating a close knit, solid family unit that encourages each other to be strong, self-reliant individuals. The state should not continue to whittle away at the cohesiveness of the family unit.

Calling the police to resolve conflicts between children further weakens the family. This is misguided. Government bureaucrats should not and cannot micromanage our children's lives without parents giving up their freedom. "Trash talking," (verbally putting down someone) is too common to be codified into a crime, unless we want a police state. It will only make matters worse for everyone involved in these dramas.

Domenick Maglio, PhD. is a columnist carried by various newspapers, an author of several books and owner/director of Wider Horizons School, a college prep program in Spring Hill. You can visit Dr. Maglio at www.drmaglio.blogspot.com.

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