I am old enough to remember when bullying was something that happened face to face, usually in the schoolyard and the neighborhood. Learning how to deal effectively with bullies was a major rite of passage for kids of my generation. Fathers, coaches, teachers, and society in general taught kids of my generation that there was only one way to deal with a bully: stand your ground and fight back. Even if we took a beating, kids of my generation were expected to give as well as we got. The idea was you either beat the bully at his own game or at the very least made picking on you so painful that the bully would leave you alone and harass someone else.
One of my favorite episodes of the old Andy Griffith show was the one in which Opie has to stand up to a bully who has been waylaying him on the way to school every day and relieving him of his lunch money, an accurate scenario in my day. It is probably no accident that this same episode is one of the most popular in the history of the long-running series. I suspect that every kid in my generation had to face up to at least one bully during his years in school. In fact, when I was in what was then called junior high school—this was back in the days when students were actually held back if they failed a grade—we had a ninth-grader in our class who had been held back so many times he drove his own car to school. Naturally, he was a lot bigger than the rest of us, and he was a bully.
After this bully administered a beating to a member of our football team, our coach called a team meeting and told us to take care of the situation. When we reminded our coach that the bully was much bigger than any one of us, the coach replied: “He’s not bigger than all of you.” That very afternoon about half of the football team met the class bully at his car as he was leaving school. The ensuing melee was not pretty. Suffice it to say the 17 year-old ninth grader never bullied anyone else at our junior high school. In fact, soon thereafter he transferred to adult high school. With this background, I will now jump ahead several decades to the present. Apparently schoolyard bullying has been replaced by cyber-bullying—an online version of the concept that amounts to mean-spirited name calling and harassment done primarily on social networking sites.
Call me old and out of touch if you will, but I don’t get the problem. In my day you had to stand up to a bully or suffer the consequences. There was no way to escape. You either gave in and were humiliated in front of your peers or fought back and took a few knocks. With cyber-bullying it’s different in two important ways. First, if someone is harassing you over the Internet, there is the obvious option of simply turning the computer off. With the press of just one button, the bully goes away. Second, with cyber-bullying the worst case scenario is that the victim is the recipient of insulting or intimidating words—not fists, elbows, knees, feet, and teeth—just words. What is that old saying about “sticks and stones…”?
Everyone reading this column knows about the concept of flaming on the Internet. People of all ages feel empowered by their anonymity to say things over the Internet they would never say in face-to-face conversations. If you would like to get a taste of this phenomenon, just read the comments that follow any column on Patriot Update or any other conservative site. Those of us who make our conservative views known on the Internet are frequently attacked by self-righteous liberals whose mastery of invective and skillful use of profanity would make even the saltiest sailor blush. Radical liberals have called me things I never imagined myself to be. They have also recommended that I do things with myself that are physiologically impossible.
One of the most important lessons a young person can learn is how to let mean-spirited comments that are meant to hurt roll off one’s back. Young people need to learn that they should never give others power over them by giving in to cyber-bullies. In this sense, cyber-bullies are just like schoolyard bullies. Give in to them and they will control your life. Apparently this is exactly what is happening. There have even been cases of youngsters committing suicide in response to cyber-bullying. A child who would commit suicide because of cyber-bullying obviously had some serious self-image problems and lacks any sort of coping skills. My question in these cases is: Where are the parents?
Unfortunately, rather than tell their children to simply turn off the computer and get a life or teaching their children important life skills like how to cope with cyber-bullies, parents are completely abdicating their responsibilities and asking the government to handle the problem. Parents who allow their children to live their lives vicariously through the Internet have begun to lobby liberal legislators for a government solution to the problem of cyber-bullying. Liberal legislators are, of course, only too happy to oblige and the First Amendment be damned.
Commenting on this subject for TOWNHALL (October 2013), Kevin Glass wrote: “…Democrat Rep. Linda Sanchez of California introduced the Megan Meier Cyber-bullying Prevention Act, a piece of legislation designed to protect children from online harassment but which, in reality, had more sinister consequences. The legislation would have criminalized speech that could ‘cause substantial emotional distress to a person’ through different means of communication, including to ‘e-mail, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages.’ Fortunately, the bill never made it out of the House.”
Legislation to prevent cyber-bullying? What nonsense. For parents to ask the federal government to solve a problem that their shortcomings as parents helped cause is beyond belief. For liberals to think they can make it illegal to cause “emotional distress” is comical. Liberals cause me emotional distress every time they open their mouths. Why not just ask the federal government to pass a law that makes it illegal to do anything that guarantees every child a carefree, problem-free life? Such is the fantasy world in which liberals reside. The parents, coaches, and teachers of my generation had it right when it came to dealing with bullies—the real kind. You either ignore them or stand up to them. In either case, YOU learn to deal with them. What the adults of earlier generations understood is that the life of every kid is going to be fraught with problems, challenges, difficulties, and adversity. They are going to have to deal with bullies of one kind or another all of their lives. Consequently, the sooner they learn how to do so the better off they will be. In fact, the better off we all will be.