October 5, 2015

Young children and phones/cameras seem to be an ever concerning issue regarding misuse and consequences. I was reading a story in on of my throw away journals about two young Floridian teenagers that are now in jail for "relentlessly bullying" another female student that they disliked. That student went on to take her own life. Tragic.

The reason for the jail sentence was related to the social tort known as defamation. From the Cornell School of Law,
defamation is a statement that injures a third party's reputation. The tort of defamation includes both libel (written statements) and slander (spoken statements).

To win a defamation case, a plaintiff must show four things: 1) a false statement purporting to be fact; 2) publication or communication of that statement to a third person; 3) fault; and 4) damages, or some harm caused to the person or entity who is the subject of the statement.

In no way would a teen think that texting or sexting could land them in jail! These girls inherently understood that it was wrong, yet they followed through with the plan to defame the other anyway.

That is where we, the parents, come in! We have to use these examples as a lesson of what not to do. We need to tell our teens that a boyfriend today could be an unfortunate enemy tomorrow. Sexted pictures then become a weapon to disparage one's character. They need to know that bullying is dangerous and completely wrong! Help them realize that everyone has a story and that we all need courage and kindness over hate and weakness. Have a zero tolerance policy in your house for bullying.

Watch Breakfast Club (rated R) with your older teen and help your teen see that human differences are just that differences. An angry young man may be abused by a parent and need love not more hate. A rich and parentally neglected girl may be lonely and unloved. For younger teens you will need to show a censored version and IMDB has a good analysis of the parts to avoid. Breakfast Club exemplifies difference analysis and resolution. Let us not judge what we do not know. This is critical for a teen to navigate the teen years.

I am actively teaching my 11 year old to be an upstander and to protect the weak or bullied. I tell my kids that I have my own stories, good and bad. I remember being a scrawny high school junior in gym class when I came back into the locker room only to see a big ogre of a student picking on a smaller Asian born student. He was different so this boy was choosing him as the daily abuse case.

Now mind you, I was 140 pounds soaking wet, but I had friends that were much larger and taller. They were my village and I felt strength based on their presence. I made it clear to this ogre that his actions would not be tolerated in our class. He backed away and to my knowledge those actions dissipated against that boy.

I have never been in a real fist fight in my life. I attribute this to never wanting to while having an amazing group of friends that loved life and to some extent protected me by their mere presence.

My stories never had a social media angle, but we had our issues nonetheless. I want my kids to know that doing the right thing is hard but with numbers comes strength. If he and his friends are honorable, they can help others who may not have a village to support them, yet.

Either way, they need to know the risks of making poor decisions when it comes to life and social media! Share your stories with them and above all give them quality information on how to navigate the new social life structure. See the next article by guest author Dr. lacy for more....

Dr. M