Over the years I have noticed something that the ability to communicate face to face is becoming a lost art. Most of our communication anymore is through email, text message, Facebook chat, Snapchat, Facetime, or insert your favorite technological method to communicate. When was the last time you actually had a face to face conversation with someone that was not for business, shopping at a store, or due to your job? For many people that is not very often. In this era of self check out we have people who would rather walk around a grocery store, department store, riding a bus, etc. wearing ear buds and having their device in their face than talk to the people around them.
Now, let's look at the kids in this endeavor. Kids today do not know how to interact with each other in face to face discussions. Kids actually struggle with talking. In my own classroom kids would rather email the person across from them to communicate instead of actually speaking. Let that sink in for a minute. Instead of opening your mouth and communicating your question in a few seconds, they would rather pull out their computer, type an email, click send, and wait for a response. That takes triple to quadruple the amount of time. But that is what these kids are used to.
Now here is the other thing. People feel far more confident in acting out online than they would face to face. Cyber bullying is far larger now than it has ever been. Adults even participate in this because they feel safe behind their screen. Kids are the exact same way. Look at all of the arguments and fights that Facebook posts, Tweets, Snapchats, etc. cause in schools, offices, and families. There are communities on Facebook where people feel comfortable just bashing others because they do not like something that was said. Instead of actually confronting the person to their face, it is far more "acceptable" in society today to just bash them on Facebook so you can get your "followers" to gather their torches and pitchforks.
There have always been these types. Before they would handwrite notes, whisper in the office/class, or complain to their friends but never say anything to the individual. But since the 90s technology has taken off and so has this misbehavior.
My son is 4, almost 5, and technologically is a whiz. He can make technology work so fast that it amazes me. This is his world that he is growing up in. I try to adapt to relate to my students and feel fairly technologically saavy; yet I worry about him. Cyber bullying never stops and it festers over into schools. However if you look at the hard data, cyber data occurs not in the school building or on the school bus, but actually when the kids are at home. Most of the time, it's occurring between the hours of 7pm and 11pm. When the kid is at home with their parents and should be either asleep or off of the device. I don't want to turn this post into a parent bashing. Goodness, I am no saint as my son watches TV in the evening because my wife and I are worn out from the day. But parents, we have to monitor better!
But we as adults should know better. We hear all of the studies about cyber bullying leading to school shootings, suicides, drug usage, and unsafe practices. Our kids look to us for guidance. Yet how do we act? We act like glorified kids. We tell our kids not to bully, not to tease, not to belittle people. Then we go online and do those same actions. Folks, our kids follow us on the internet. They can look us up online and see what we do. So when they see our engagements and our conversations, how do you expect them to behave? They are going to say that they see this behavior as acceptable.
Case in point. Look at television, movies, sports, music videos, etc. They can talk "trash" about people and it is acceptable because it's entertaining or helps to "pump them up for the game." Do you realize that kids see this and look up to you? You are teaching them that it is ok to belittle them. There was an entire set of commercials between the Dez Bryant and Josh Norman feud. The two men fought on a football field and it caught national attention. Sure, they were suspended and fined. But the two men got commercial play from it belittling each other. Then, let's look at the behaviors of Odell Beckham, Jr. Kids idolize him for his play on the field. Yet he can act immature and talk "trash" too. Do not even get me started about how Eminem goes after every other famous person and attacks them in his music. Kids hear this and think it's ok.
Folks, it's not ok. When will it be enough? There have been countless school shootings and all we do is send "thoughts and prayers." There have been suicide bombers. Again, thoughts and prayers. Terrorist attacks. "Thoughts and prayers." Do you see a trend? When will we actually address the elephant in the room? When do we take the bull by the horns and become accountable for our actions to actually teach these kids about how to act? There are a select few who are trying to show kids the right way but parents, athletes, entertainers, and musicians need to realize their influence and help this cause. Because otherwise our kids will not know how to interact with people face to face, will cyber bully everyone, and will turn our society into a live action Hunger Games.