When I was a kid, growing up in the 70’s, there was a popular television commercial for Charmin toilet paper where the tag line was “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin”. When my brother was in third grade, he had a small speech impediment, one he would eventually outgrow. But at the time, whenever he pronounced an “S” word, such as “some” he would say, “Shome” So a few of the kids at school teased him by saying to him, “Pleash don’t shqueeze the sharminsh…” over and over again. If I heard the kids, I would tell them to “Knock it off,” which they usually did (in my presence), after first telling me they were only having a little fun with him.
When I was young and other kids threw shade or slants in my direction, I followed my mother’s directive:
- Consider the source: Did these kids even know me outside of school? Did they hold a place of importance in my life? Were these kids even worth the time I was taking wondering/worrying about where they fit in my life?
- If a snap remark was needed, I was to recite to them, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” as I walked/hurried away from them.
At the time, I remember not quite understanding just what that old adage meant. I mean, was I giving those bullies permission to ramp up their attack and throw stones at me? Thankfully, most of the time, we all walked home “Unharmed” with the memory quickly fading. Of course, this was also before I understood that names and insults actually hurt worse than sticks and stones.
And long before the internet introduced the world to a 24/7/365 connection to social media.
What used to be seen as a minor skirmish back in my day, has now become open season to inflict the most pain possible, all under the guise of having a fun tease on social media. Except the fun tease has grown out of control. “According to the American Association of Suicidology rates for suicide among 10 to 14 year olds has grown 50 per cent over the last three decades. f1″ In addition, of the kids who are bullied online, one in five ever tell their parents.
This is unacceptable. Our kids deserve the opportunity to grow up in a safe, loving, nurturing environment and our computers, phones and game systems should not be used as instruments to induce pain, despair and eventually sadness and grief.
I don’t have the answers to the many questions facing us today, I wish I did.
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog about watching Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, a drama series which deals with teen suicide; with my daughter. I made a point of watching this program with her to create an open dialogue with her, about the finality of suicide and the many other choices out there to keep her safe. I also wanted to point out to her how devastated we would all be by the loss of her life. One of the lessons they pointed out in this series is that kids under the age of 18 lack the cognitive ability to see past the crap in their lives, to the future that holds so much promise. In talking with my doll, I tried my best for her to see, the future is bright and to hold onto that belief above all else.
Over the past two days, I’ve been informed about two different 14 year old boys who, after considerable cyber bullying, chose to end their lives. As you can imagine, their families, friends and classmates are devastated. With school only a few weeks from starting back up, many parents are at a loss as to what to say to their own children, to help them understand what they themselves can’t. As parents, a neighborhood, a parish community, a nation, we must no longer allow bullying to be a part of life, simply because it doesn’t have to be. If we follow the tenants of God and love one another as ourselves, then this type of grief and sadness will disappear.
We need to rise up and say NO MORE!
We must find a way to keep our babies whole, happy, feeling safe and loved–together.
Some help in navigating how to talk to kids about suicide: https://teenlineonline.org/
Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Trevor Project (LGBTQ specific):
NASP guide for Educators;
Webinars (by Teen Line Staff):
Teen suicide prevention on 3/30/17.