Last night I was sitting in my office; it was near the end of the night and I was getting ready to go home and I hadn’t seen a student in about half an hour, so I was scrolling through the news. My eye caught a headline that said something like “Teens charged in Youtube beating”. I clicked. I felt sick.
I’m not sure what I want to say about this—other than the fact that I feel shocked and a little bit nauseated and then simply naïve. I have worked in high schools since 2001 and I can’t imagine the girls I know exhibiting this kind of behavior. But then I stop myself—can I? I literally feel dizzy when I look at stills from this video taped in a Florida home, which is why I haven’t posted a link here. Because by viewing this video, are we sensationalizing a deeply personal and hurtful experience? Are we contributing to undue fame and recognition for teenagers who have committed a heinous and unbelievable act? Does talking about these things—even writing on this blog—contribute to such events as a videotaped beating of a girl by her peers? I don’t have an answer but there is an underground culture of violence and hunger for recognition that is getting stronger and stronger and that we as a community have a responsibility to combat. I have written about bullying for years—first as a student pursuing my M.A. in Counseling, as a fiction writer, as a school counselor developing curriculum. I have researched and talked about how the way boys bully differs from the way girls bully, how this behavior changes with age and maturity, I have worked with colleagues to develop methods for discussing and punishing the new-ish phenomenon of cyber-bullying, which so often happens off of school grounds. But this is something all new and asks us all tore-examine the way we communicate.
What about this? What about bullying for fame and recognition? This is something that parents and educators alone can only begin to discuss—this poses a question and brings to light an issue that is so much bigger than all of us. There is something very wrong. I know that by writing on this blog, by talking in person, by posting comments and hosting real roundtables and initiating conversations we can only start. But it is the way we use ever-changing technology that needs to be addressed. It is part of education now. It has to be.