Another bullying story has made headlines at CNN.com, detailing the all too common story of a harassed teen who took her own life. I say “another” story, but to grieving family and friends, she was more than just “another” suicidal teen.
Her name was Rebecca Sedwick, and she was only 12 years old before she jumped to her death.
Events like these seem surreal until they happen to us or the people we care for. Perhaps that’s why there has been no real change or movement to address the misuse of social networking, despite the plethora of stories eerily similar to Rebecca’s. The real problem stems from the anonymity of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, for it gives teens a cyber mask to hide behind, from which they are free of responsibility and guilt. When you’re not held personally responsible for your actions, then you become far more tempted to say things that you would never say in person. The problem doesn’t lie with the policies of the aforementioned social sites, though. Rather, we need to focus on the students perpetrating the bullying. Nearly everyone agrees to this conclusion, but dissent arises as to how to tackle such a problem.
In today’s multimedia environment, far more fingers are pointed than resolutions reached. Parental control groups assert that pop culture itself breeds teen rebelliousness, which leads to rampant bullying without fear of any real consequences from the authorities. Some people say that social media isn’t the culprit so much as deteriorating family values, because after all, social interaction occurred well before the advent of Facebook.
In my opinion, it’s a mix of all these factors. Some parts of that massive pop culture spectrum do encourage rebellious behavior, from excessive swearing to objectification of females. However, pop culture is not inherently evil; it has the power to inspire and empower teenagers to make a positive contribution to the world. Similarly, the issue of social media vs. social media is a chicken-or-the-egg dilemma at best. Did Facebook lead to a decline in domestic order? Or did dysfunction in familial units lead to an increase in Facebook usage?
We need to put aside all these nuances and look at the problem as what it really is. Rather than foisting blame every which way, we need to recognize that only a joint effort in society will topple the bullying that led poor Rebecca to take her life. We need to stamp down on the cruder parts of pop culture, while simultaneously encouraging active parental involvement. This is not a problem for the next generation, nor is it a problem that the previous generation should have fixed.
This is our problem, and we need to fix it before yet “another” teenager takes his or her own life.