Today, I read of Kevin Smith’s response to a hateful post published on his daughter’s Instagram account by an Internet troll. I applaud Mr. Smith. For a number of reasons. To begin with, Mr. Smith has knowledge of (and uses) social media such that he understands what it happens to be. Many parents know of “social media” but do not understand it. Additionally, in this context, he understands how social media has been used to bully children and adults in cyberspace (hence the term, “cyberbullying”). And thus, he recognizes cyberbullying. Second, and this follows directly from the first, Mr. Smith understands how to use social media in responding to the instant cyberbullying consisting of hateful and nonsensical diatribe directed to his daughter (the author and content of which do not deserve mentioning here).
But, more importantly, I applaud Mr. Smith for actually doing something. For reacting. For taking a stand and responding to the cyberbullying. Just like schoolyard bullying, the bullies often continue only so long as they obtain affirmation or the misinterpreted affirmation of a silent audience. Where confronted or challenged, or where their behavior deters others from perceiving them as “cool.” there may be a positive effect in curtailing their behavior. Regardless, and more to the point, the victim of cyberbullying – or any bullying for that matter – deserves our attention and our defense.
As a parent myself, I am protective of my children. I want to defend them at every instant. At the same time, I must weigh when to inject myself into my children’s battles. Particularly, with respect to matters that occur at school, I must consider when to become involved and when to consider matters they face as “life experiences” to be suffered – not alone, but without articulated and/or visible support and defense from a parent.
But, many of my generation (which I share with Mr. Smith) have begun to realize that we need not and should not allow our children to suffer cyberbullying in silence. Indeed, schools have begun initiatives designed to educate parents about cyberbullying (or any bullying for that matter) and to inform school authorities should certain behaviors or symptoms occur. In this regard, we as parents must be more vigilant about our children and their emotions. And, by saying this, I am not judging any parents in the past. I merely state that we as parents need to be vigilant – more vigilant that my parents when I grew up – about bullying and the symptoms. We should follow our children on social media. Yes, we should. We should be informed and aware of their social media accounts. We should warn them about sexting and the consequences that may emerge years later. We should talk with them and gauge their state of mind. We must know our children.
For, absent the foregoing, our children may suffer silently at the hands of loud cyberbullies. Objectively, we know that our children – and even we ourselves – should not react to the gutter comments from an anonymous person who hides through anonymity to deride and harm others. However, we also know that we do care about what others think. We all would like compliments. And, we all respond internally – in one degree or another – to negative criticism (perhaps, even positive criticism).
And, so, when we learn of cyberbullying, we parents must inform the schools. We must learn more about it. And, we must encourage the schools to adopt mechanisms that allow students to anonymously report incidents of cyberbullying, such as that created by one of my clients in the form of Bridgit.
But, we also need to know when to do more. In the instance of Mr. Smith and the cyberbullying of his daughter, I applaud his intervention and use of social media to respond. Well done.
No one deserves hatred. No one deserves cyberbullying. Of all the demographics, cyberbullying of children (and I include even college aged children here) must be derided, chastised, called out, and eradicated. At such ages, our children remain particularly vulnerable to images of themselves reflected in the comments and posts of others. Their psyches continue to form. Their personalities yet to fully mature into the potential they will be.
So, Mr. Smith I applaud you. I thank you. And, I join with you.
And, while some may – and some already have – suggested the better approach would to ignore, I disagree. When a victim ignores cyberbullying, you cannot know whether the individual ignores the content out of strength or weakness. While I imagine Mr. Smith’s daughter possesses the inner strength to ignore such harassment, others do not (one need only look to the effect recent cyberbullying has had on Gabby Douglas as reported by her mother). Moreover, I believe it sends the wrong message to parents to be silent and not respond to cyberbullying. One may disagree on the form of response, but response is needed.
In any case, lest anyone be concerned that I am an ardent fan of Mr. Smith’s biased by adoration, I am not. I enjoyed and continue to enjoy the Clerks set of films. I respect what he has done. But, I am not an ardent fan of his filmmaking (no offense, Mr. Smith).
I am an attorney who has represented more victims of cyberbullying and revenge porn than I care to represent. In fact, one is one too many. As such, I applaud positive responses against cyberbullying. And, now with my return to JurisMudd, I will openly do so beyond briefs filed in court.
Though not an ardent fan of his filmwork, I must admit that today I have become and shall remain a fan of Mr. Smith as a persona, an Internet personality, and a father. I encourage others to agree with me, protect our children, and denounce cyberbullying.
(Image obtained from CNN, permission being sought).