There’s a crisis going on among our youth. Yes, guns, gangs and teen pregnancy are issues that are afflicting the lives of young people, but the severity of bullying is a calamity that cannot be ignored. Week after week, day after day, young people are taking their lives due to merciless bullies.
Last month 15-year-old Amanda Todd took her own life after enduring an endless cycle of cyberbullying and a physical alteration that fatally scared her soul.
This month Felicia Garcia ended her 15-year-old life by jumping in front of a moving train after being tormented over a leaked sex tape.
Earlier this year, Joel Morales was 12 years old when he hung himself to escape taunting for being smart and having a deceased father. Those three precious lives are gone but their souls and desperate cries for help can still be heard if you care enough to listen.
The days in which children faced a bully merely on school grounds are over now that we’ve been engulfed in an all-around, 24/7 vicious cycle that never ends via the web. Cyberbullying is the new terror that relentlessly preys upon the weak, vulnerable and insecure through popular social media platforms. As a result, youth must endure attacks by their peers and the spread of malicious gossip that can be shared among an entire school community in an instance.
As I read one horrific story after another about bullies that torment their victims for being fat, gay, smart or a slut etc., I can’t help but to connect the dots to the culture that we live in and our multi-million dollar entertainment industry which thrives off the oversaturation of violence and objectification of women. But not only are actors and entertainers paid to push the envelope, now we live in a world that rewards regular people for bad behavior.
From Honey Boo Boo, Snooki and the stars of the Bad Girls Club, these reality TV stars are adored by fans and compensated with fame and cash for displaying rude, ill-manner temperament. More than just our guilty pleasure for TV drama, these people have become modern day examples of American dream success and prove that bad behavior can be fruitful and profitable when you’re on the come-up.
So what happens to children growing up in society that glorifies violence and rewards vulgarity? What happens to impressionable teens that look up to reality stars that get into public fights, act out, stir up trouble and devalue all sense of morality? You get a society where kindness is nationally broadcasted as weakness and hurting others wins you cool points. Mix that with the power to share malice with hundreds of people in one click, and you get the Mean Girls on crack–to the third power.
Now, before anyone goes off on a tangent about how parents need to raise their kids, let me first say that I whole-heartedly agree that parents should be good role models and discipline their children. But I must ask, what about the child growing up in an abusive home or being raised by a functioning drug addict or alcoholic? What about the parent who hasn’t learned or seen what good parenting looks like themselves? And lastly, what about the child that doesn’t have parents?
Before 15 year-old Felicia Garcia jumped to her death, she was living in a foster home which goes to show that many victims, and their bullies, are left abandoned in a cold, heartless world. Yes, some people tough it out and become stronger human beings—but more so often, these children become victims themselves and end up in jail, on drugs or dead simply because they lacked a good support system. Though parents play a major role in ensuring that children become productive members of society, good parenting is a luxury that many lack.
That’s where we come in as a society. We know that there are a number of factors that play into and can dominate our children’s perception of what’s right and what’s wrong. But it seems like our insatiable appetite for TV drama and controversy is blurring the line between good and bad for young people whose mind is still developing. Constantly seeing bad behavior reap good rewards is a factor that is detrimentally hurting our youth and desensitizing their tolerance for physical and sexual violence.
The old saying that it takes a village to raise a child has new meaning in a world where social media affects how our children our raised. We are all a part of the internet community and we possess the power to influence how our children are raised. In effect, we all must take responsibility for the many factors that are causing them to go in the wrong direction.
Selena Hill is the Special Election Coverage Reporter at GlobalGrind.com. She’s also a radio host at Let Your Be Heard! Radio where you can hear more of her views and opinions. Follow her at @MsSelenaHill and @BeHeard_Radio.