It's happening far too often these days. Children and teens becoming the victims of a vicious "sport" - virtual bullying.
With access to social platforms far beyond the normal parent's purview (trust me, your kids have profiles on sites far more obvious that Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook), the schoolyard bully of days past is now stealthy, sneaky, and capable of cruelty most adults cannot imagine.
(Yes, bullies are STILL cowards, but given the cloak of anonymity provided by the internet, they are far more aggressive and persistent.)
Two stories in the past week have garnered national attention - one here in Texas, another in Florida.
In Plano, Texas, a beautiful young lady, who happens to also be a special needs student (difficult birth that led to lack of oxygen and brain damage) has become the target of a group of shitstains who torment her regularly via social platforms.
Shea Shawhan is 18, but has the mental capacity of an 8 year old. She also suffers seizures, a lifelong side effect of the birth difficulties. Despite her challenges, she is a cheerleader at Plano West Senior High School and is loved by many.
But not all.
For 8 very long months she has been receiving horrible text messages threatening rape, making fun of her disabilities, calling her ugly, and urging her to kill herself. Here is just a sampling:
Here's another: ‘Shea is so annoying but cute I want to do more than just kiss her I want to rape her then kill her. That will finally make sure she goes away for good.’
Her mother has involved the police because changing Shea's phone number has not stopped the texts. The problem is, the group of cowards are a tad tech savvy and avail themselves of programs that allow you to text from fake phone numbers.
Yes, Shea supporters are many in her school, but the ones behind this are in the hallways, lunchroom, classrooms. Her mother is so concerned that she has begun eating lunch at the school with her daughter.
What is stunning to me is that anyone thinks this is funny, sport, a way to pass the time. And I can promise you that were I to find that my daughter were among the miscreants? Well, you can bet your ass the only thing she'd ever be typing text on again is a typewriter.
But Shea is still alive. Many other teens have not withstood the emotional damage of tormenting peers. Young kids routinely show up in the news after they have hanged themselves, slit their wrists, jumped off bridges wanting only to end the emotional nightmare in which they are caught.
To an adult, safely out of the noxious environment schools breed, it may seem ridiculous that a child would kill themselves over bullying. But think a little harder.
Middle school and high school (especially) are the WORST years growing up. And don't bother to give me a glowing report of some bullshit halcyon years you spent in Rose Colored Glasses High. They didn't exist. At least not for everyone. People are always suffering in school. Maybe you were lucky to be oblivious, not targeted, not isolated. Maybe you did the isolating, the targeting (and I hope you feel like shit in your later years).
But what we dealt with is ratcheted up beyond our comprehension by the tools at the disposal of young people today. A whisper and a laugh in the hallways of our youth is now a complete webpage dedicated to www.<insertname>sucksdick.com.
In Florida, a 12 year old girl is being mourned by family after she jumped to her death, unable to endure the bullying of two former friends, one 14, one also 12.
Her crime? She once dated the boy the 14 year old is now dating. (And no, we don't need to go down a tangential road about dating at that age - it doesn't bring her back to life.)
On September 9th, Rebecca Sedwick climbed a tower at an abandoned cement plant and jumped to her death. Authorities believe as many as 15 girls were involved in the bullying but these are the two pieces of shit who have risen like curdled cream in this rancid coffee.
Police acted after the 14 year old, Guadelupe Shaw posted this precious missive on Facebook: "Yes ik I bullied REBECCA nd she killed her self but IDGAF"
I don't give a fuck.
Hmm, funny, Guadalupe, that's exactly how I feel about what now happens to you. Public shame, ridicule, a record, punishment. You earned whatever is coming your way.
The police have online proof of the bullying, and also sad accounts of it including them having beaten her up, and urging her to "drink bleach and die."
Of course, when their parents were confronted with FACTS, this is what was offered by Guadalupe's father, "My daughter's a good girl and I'm 100 percent sure that whatever they're saying about my daughter is not true."
Except it is, Mr, Shaw. And your refusal to hold your child accountable in any way only proves that the shit doesn't fall far from the asshole.
Why were these girls still allowed access to technology? Don't answer, rhetorical question. It is obvious, that like far too many parents in this world, the ones in this story do not monitor their child's activity, contacts, texts, postings, ramblings, behavior. Hell, even good parents don't. Instead they want to believe their child could NEVER get up to no good, never get themselves in trouble.
Ask my daughters. Technology is a privilege. Abuse it and I can cut that cord with one check mark on Sprint. That iPhone wil become a paperweight. Those laptops? I bought them.
Just this past week Carson and I discussed a new platform she uses for communicating with two friends who live on the west coast. I was not aware of it. Want to know how I became aware of it? I take her phone on a regular basis and check it. No warning, no hiding. Just. "Hey, put in your passcode and give me your phone." (Note to parents: I learned from a friend about fake icons that look innoculous - like Calculator, etc, but hide files from parents - so open everything. No, my daughters have never tried that route - partly because I know about it, but mostly because they know I am goddamned deadly serious about altering their life should they eff up.)
My daughters are great kids/young adults - always have been. But they are also YOUNG. Their intent may not be dangerous, but it is still possible to stray into that territory.
Bullying has existed for as long as we have existed. But it doesn't matter if YOU survived it, that doesn't mean your child will. That doesn't mean if you never bullied that your child never will.
Parents have to be vigilant. You have to be willing to get involved to the extent you piss off your precious angel. You have to be willing to step in and confront situations. And you have to be willing to bring down the hammer if you find your child is stepping over the technological line and endangering themselves or someone else.
If you threaten to take the phone - TAKE IT. For an EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME. CUT. THEM. OFF. EVERYTHING. (Believe me, if you take the iphone, they will run to their old iTouch with wifi access, to a friend's phone, computer. CHECK. And when they pop up posting, extend and increase the punishment until they get the message that you are serious.)
Trust me, they'll get over it. And when they cross that line into adulthood, they WILL look back and thank you.
Sheas do not need to happen, and Rebeccas should NEVER happen. Sadly, until all parents step up, we will continue to bury our young. Sticks and stone are no longer our problem - bits and bytes and parental laziness are.