Mean can be defined as cruel, spiteful or malicious. Social media has brought on the new “mean” for our children’s generation. Why you may ask? People seem to feel more bold and confident putting their feelings out on a computer, text, email versus confronting the person face to face. Revenge is another ugly word that has come into play with this “mean” term. We hear terms like slut shaming, fat shaming, and whatever else shaming we can think of to destroy someone’s reputation. What ever happened to the old saying, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it? That is a joke today!
So how do people become mean? Were they born mean or did they learn to become mean? Most psychologists would agree that mean behavior is a “learned behavior”. Children model this after their parents sometimes or are influenced by peers (usually starting in school). People tend to throw the word “bully” out there very loosely but keep in mind there are different requirements of being a mean kid or a bully. There are more MEAN kids than bullies.
I read an article on line called, “if my kid is being an a##hole, I want you to tell me”. While I respected this mother’s thought process and how sometimes parents do not have any idea what their kid is doing, I would have to disagree with this philosophy. Let’s review. Once you tell a mother/father that their precious child is doing something wrong, hurtful, etc., the initial reaction is to defend and attack! That parent will come right back at you with “well your kid did this, said that, etc.” It is rare that a parent today will side with the other parent and take accountability for their child’s actions.
When I was growing up, it was a different world. If a teacher called the house to tell a parent that their child was in trouble, the child would hide! If a neighbor came a knocking on the door to tell a parent what a child did, that child would run! Parents believed one another! Parents worked together to correct the behaviors! Parents held their kids responsible for their actions! Parents even apologized on their child’s behalf! Remember the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”? Not today!
Let’s go back to the “new mean”. I am approached by people all of the time about my program, parents kNOwmore. Everyone has a story to share. Everyone’s life has been impacted somehow by social media (positive and negative). The main theme that keeps coming up is the inappropriate comments, actions, behaviors by our young people today (AKA MEAN). If a parent is not following their child on social media, how would they know if that kid did something mean? We all want to believe that our children would NEVER do this but let’s get real parents, they do it! Can you blame our kids when a lot of their friends are mean on social media with no repercussions? Look at the political race for 2016 today (mean behaviors on the news daily). Look at movie stars today having “tweet wars” with each other and love to put each other down? This is the new generation we have accepted today!
What can you do?
You can only control what happens in your family – what I was told (to some degree). You cannot control other children. Parents are struggling with this every day. School administrators are spending hundreds of countless hours a year putting out fires because of people being “mean” on social media. People ask me, what is the solution? Schools need to revisit their social media policies (fine tune them). Many of these current policies are not conducive to the social media world our children are living in today. Cybercrimes are also not addressed in these policies (many of which kids are committing).
Parents need to monitor their child’s accounts as well. Do you follow your children on their social media accounts? Kids need to know whatever they put out there in print, they should be proud of it and own up to it. Coaches, teachers, pastors, friends, family are following kids all of the time. What is wrong with parents following them too? Before defending your kid (which is the common theme today), know the facts! It is ok to monitor your kids on social media! There are many apps today that allow you to do this! My Social Sitter is a new app that I just love! It can be used currently for text messaging and twitter! My Social Sitter provides an instant filter before any social media message goes public. You can see in detail how this works at http://www.mysocialsitter.com/how-it-works.php. There are thousands of key words that are “filtered” including acronyms (remember kids like to hide their messages with abbreviations). You (as their parent) can also add more key words as you wish with this program! If a child/teenager posts something that is inappropriate, the message will be flagged and rejected. This allows kids to go back and review what they tried to send and possibly think of a better option that is positive vs negative. The parents are also notified via email to see what their child try to text/post. Kids can earn “tokens” to reward them for their positive posts, which can be later cashed in for fun gifts!
Before you want to defend your child, remember you must know the facts and build a solid case. You can get to the bottom of the issue and determine who is being mean by monitoring your child. Hopefully it is not your child that is a MEAN kid!