Cyberbullying: When will it Get Better?

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

Cyberbullying: When will it Get Better?

I was reminiscing with one of my coworkers yesterday about how tough the middle school years are and we both expressed a similar sentiment, “We would never want to experience middle school again.” From the cliqueiness to the rudeness to the coldness, the pre-teen and adolescent years are particularly harrowing.

However, if I am being honest, I don’t think my coworker or I fully understand how bad school can get.

When I was in middle school, things like Facebook and Twitter did not exist and the ways in which you could bully, while still terrible, were somewhat more traditional (even predictable). Fast forward more than a decade later and now terms like “cyberbullying” and “de-friend”  are used as much as “recess” and “free period.”  It is deeply upsetting that these words are thrown around as if they are common vernacular.

We are all familiar with the big bullying cases like Tyler Clementi and Phoebe Prince – youths who took their own lives because of extensive bullying. But how many of us know about 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, a Buffalo, N.Y., resident who took his own life more than a month ago because he stopped believing that it could get better?

Jamey, a self-proclaimed gay teen, discussed in multiple YouTube videos and blog postings that he had been bullied since he was in fifth grade, when his classmates first began to pick up on the fact that he might be different. Ironically, Jamey was part of the nationwide “It Gets Better” campaign, a website devoted to the LGBT youth community in which teens post videos letting their peers know that it can get better. Jamey’s last video entry, which was published just days before he took his own life, eerily tells everyone that he knows it will get better.

But on September 17th, Jamey sent a tweet to Lady Gaga – someone he admired deeply for her songs about acceptance – stating “By mother monster, thank you for all you have done,” and on September 18th Jamey was found dead.

According to an interview with Jamey’s parents that aired on “The Today Show,” some of the cruelest forms of bullying towards Jamey came online. The messages are inhumane and animalistic and I don’t want to even write them but the only way to stop this is to see it in its ugliest form. Messages like “Jamey is stupid, gay, fat and ugly he must die” and “I wouldn’t care if you died, no one would, so just do it, it would make everyone way more happier,” are the types of things the 14-year-old boy faced. What’s even more sickening is that these messages continued even after Jamey was found dead. 

Watching the recent “Today Show” video clip about Jamey’s tragedy would make anyone feel sick to his/her stomach. It begs the question: How can we live in a world where good parents can find themselves with cruel children, who go on to become bigots and bullies? And how can parents who have been nothing but involved and nurturing, like Jamey’s, still not get there in time for their child?

And perhaps more importantly: When will all this stop?

I am not yet a parent but I have four nieces and nephews and I know the worry my sisters and brother-in-laws already have about raising kids in a world replete with cyberbullying and torment. My oldest niece and nephew are just five and already I find myself looking asking questions like “will they be OK once they enter middle school” and “what will I do if I find out they are victims” or, and perhaps even worse, tormenters.

I don’t think there is a right answer for what to do as there are too many kids who come from the nicest homes and grow up to commit murder and inexplicable acts. And there are kids who grow up in supportive homes in which they form trusting relationships with their parents yet crucial warning signs can still slip through the radar.

So I am not going to sit here and preach about how we can stop this. Rather let us all think for a moment about what a scary world we live in and never lose sight of the fact that something has to change.

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1 Comment

Bullying is a serious problem affecting millions of children. It can interfere with their social and emotional development, as well as their school performance. 19,000 children attempt to commit suicide every year as a direct result of being bullied. To help combat this, I have put together a bully prevention show for elementary schools & libraries called "The STOP Bullying Show". Based out of Orlando, Florida, the show raises the awareness of bullying in a fun & engaging way; while teaching kids what they can do to put a stop to it. Highlights of the show can be seen here...

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