It’s no secret that even though I eat healthy foods, I still struggle with my weight. So I when I heard about the video that’s going around of Jennifer Livingston, the morning news anchor for WKBT-TV in La Crosse, Wisc., responding on-air to an unkind email she got about her weight, I had to watch. I think you should, too. Here's the video below:
Livingston’s words got me thinking. I learned the term “keyboard courage” years ago from one of my first online editors. I had received my first attack comment — a comment that attacked me, my parenting skills, my faith and more — because I wrote about protecting the environment. Keyboard courage is the courage that someone has when they are at their computer monitor, using the keyboard to send a message that they probably wouldn’t dare say if they had to look you in the eyes and say it out loud.
I’ve been wondering lately if keyboard courage is spreading to our face-to-face conversations. If after years of finding it acceptable to say mean things online either overtly or under the cover of a smiley face emoticon, it’s becoming easier to be nasty to others. There seems to be an increase in bullying by both kids and adults, and I agree with Livingston when she says that “attacks like this are not okay.”
When she says in the video that “the Internet has become a weapon” and that “our schools have become a battleground,” I absolutely agree as a mom and as someone who spends the majority of my day on the Internet because of my job. I see a lot of adults being nasty to each other online, and I’ve seen an increase of face-to-face verbal nastiness in my community.
I see conversations between kids on Facebook that really scare me. My boys do not have Facebook accounts. My oldest is 13, the age that Facebook says you must be to have an account, but some of his friends have had accounts since they were 8 or 9 years old. Just yesterday, I had to explain to a 10-year-old why I wouldn’t accept his friend request on Facebook.
Many of these kids have accounts that aren’t protected, and from time to time when I’ve felt I needed some information about what’s going on in the schools, I’ve gone on the Facebook accounts of my boys’ classmates. The nastiness I’ve seen has been disturbing.
Livingston is right when she says “this behavior is learned.” When kids see that adults find it okay to attack others through the keyboard or face-to-face, they think it’s okay to do, too. I think of the example of the “parent codes of behavior” that have to be handed out to adults at the beginning of each kids’ sports season. And I think about how often parents completely ignore those codes of behavior. I have one son who refuses to play Little League anymore because he doesn’t like the way he sees the adults behaving with each other or with the kids.
Once again, my sons’ school is starting a new anti-bullying program. I have to say, I’m not convinced it will be successful. When kids see the adults in their lives behaving in bad ways, I don’t think a school curriculum that says it’s not okay is going to be effective. We as adults have to set the example, not think that the schools can solve this problem through a few worksheets and an assembly or two throughout the year. When adults get codes of conduct on sports fields that they don't follow, why do we think that kids who get codes of conducts in schools will think they need to follow them?
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Our family blogger Jenn has said she’ll be writing about helping to prevent bullying throughout the month. I may stray from my regular food topics from time to time to do the same. As a mom of two boys who are in middle school, I am acutely aware of how much bullying goes on, how it affects kids and adults, and how important it is that adults take a stand against it and help kids take a stand against it, too.
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