I have four teenagers, and our family has been impacted by the Amanda Todd story. I am frustrated by the cavalier way that the word "bullying" is used - it has become a normal occurrence and this has led to the word no longer having any meaning or consequences.
Teachers, parents and police need to call bullying what it is - criminal harassment or assault. That is Step 1.
Step 2 is that we, as adults, need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for our own part in what has become an issue of culture. We need to examine our behaviour and treatment of others and call each other out when we see behaviour from each other that we would not condone coming from a child.
I will give you an example: Recently I witnessed a man berate and name-call a cashier at the market. I did nothing, just kept quiet and so did the other four or five people in line. I had two of my kids with me, and on the way to the car after being especially kind to the crying cashier I came to a harsh truth about myself. I was a bystander. I did not stand up and tell that man that his behaviour was not acceptable and that he could make his point without being abusive. In that moment I also taught my children to be bystanders.
We need to call out abusive, rude, racist or disrespectful conduct with our kids - and each other's kids - and we also need to hold each other accountable for our part in creating this culture. During struggles with my own children, I have constantly heard "kids will be kids" type philosophy which I believe is just a cliché used to excuse laziness - pure and simple. I was also told kids "need to learn these lessons," and I do agree with that.
However, I reject the notion that our children need to learn about bullying by us allowing it to happen to them. Certainly we do not teach our children road safety by allowing them to get hit by a car. Yes, monitoring the Internet is a great idea, but it is also a stop-gap solution that makes us feel like "we have done our part."
I suggest that our part is to step it up - aggressively go after the problem, not come up with ways to handle the effects. In talking to my own teens about Amanda Todd we agreed that one person standing up for her in the front of the school, or sitting with her at lunch may have kept her alive.
Pay attention, get involved, be a leader. That is our job as adults. This is not a teen or childhood problem. This is a human problem and we need to fix it.
Sandra Sander West Vancouver