HomeMarch 2012Anti-Semitism, Hate Crimes and Bullying: Part Two of Three

Anti-Semitism, Hate Crimes and Bullying: Part Two of Three

Sadly, there is so much hate and intolerance in our society.  As Jews, we have been victims of such negativity throughout our history.  Other ethnicities and religions have been and continue to be targeted, but hate against other groups has become rampant, along with negative attacks against people or groups who dare to be different.  What is even more alarming is how much bullying there is in our schools.  Bullying can take many forms.  Some of the non-physical types are the most harmful.  Kids and teens are being made fun of, ignored and excluded, in addition to being physically and verbally harassed.
My nephew in Texas was bullied terribly in his elementary school, because he’s extremely smart.  He was picked on by other kids, excluded from parties and, after school playdates, ostracized to the point of its being so terrible that he needed to move to a different school.  (There, happily, he is now accepted and well liked.)  One time he was excluded from a “club,” because the club was not open to anyone who likes to learn about presidents.  Preposterous!
The rapid growth of technology, cell phones and the Internet has led to cyberbullying.  With most teens  using Facebook, Myspace, Tumblr, Formspring and other social networking sites, attacking each other on line has become commonplace. Cyberbullying refers to a situation “when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.” I regularly log in to Facebook as my children, using their log-in information, to see what their friends and peers are writing about.  I am repeatedly astonished – and repulsed – by the way these teens “talk” to each other.  The harassment I have seen in Facebook posts and comments has been so much worse that anything you might overhear one teen saying aloud to another, perhaps because it is easier to say things to someone on line versus face to face, or perhaps because the Internet adds a certain element of anonymity.
Something called Formspring is the worst.  Formspring is a form of social networking where someone can log on to someone else’s profile and post a question anonymously, and then the person answers the question.  The “motto” is “ask me anything.”  My kids, fortunately, have not chosen to waste their time with Formspring, but the amount of cyberbullying, name calling and hate I have seen on this site is abhorrent. One time I even felt it was time to talk to the principal of my kids’ middle school, because one teen we knew well was being told that everyone hated her and many more insults and attacks.
The statistics are shocking.  A poll conducted by a global research company for Reuters News, published just last month, found that 12 percent of parents around the world reported that their child was a victim of cyberbullying and 24 percent knew someone in their community who has been cyberbullied.  A Consumer Reports survey conducted in early 2011 revealed that one million children or teens were harassed, threatened or cyberbullied on Facebook in 2010.  Finally, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center, approximately 20 percent of all teens polled reported experiencing cyberbullying, usually in the form of mean or hurtful comments on Facebook and the spread of rumors.  We have all read in the news about several teens who have committed suicide as a result of being cyberbullied and being victims of hate crimes.
Something needs to be done about this epidemic.  In part three of this series, I will offer some guidelines and resources that are available to deal with anti-Semitism and hate crimes in general, including cyberbullying.  As parents, we need to be aware of what is going on in the lives of our children and teens.  Talking to them regularly and encouraging them to open up and share what is going on in their lives, as well as vigilant monitoring of their Internet use and on line activities, will go a long way toward keeping them safe and protected.


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