Most of us, at one time or another, have heard the phrase, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I’m not sure where it originated, but it’s usually a good rule to follow. Despite that fact, gossiping lives on.
Actually, it’s been around forever. Throughout my childhood, I remember dealing with the drama of rumor and innuendo. Someone would say something about somebody and things would escalate until that someone got in trouble or the next hot topic took its place.
On occasion, I was that topic. But the world was smaller then, and once I left school grounds I could get away from the craziness, and meet with friends outside of my daily dramas. There was even the possibility of everyone forgetting about it the next day, or at least the following year.
Actually, I moved around a lot as a child and in some ways each transition gave me the opportunity to reinvent myself. But for this generation, that’s become nearly impossible for them to imagine. Their world is big, and each experience they have is at risk of becoming part of their permanent record.
Now, instead of the possibility of reinvention, they are faced with the possibility that a reputation, bad choice or even unfounded rumors will be broadcast to the world. I can’t imagine how hopeless that might feel to an already vulnerable kid.
I recently had a conversation about this with two moms who sat next to me while we all waited for our children to come out of music lessons. Their kids ranged in age from 13 to 16, so the three of us were in different phases of parenting, but it seemed we all had the same problem.
We sat for at least 30 minutes, sharing our stories, trying to figure out an easy answer, and soon realized there wasn't one. How do you monitor what your kids are doing, writing, posting and seeing on the Internet without following them around like a helicopter? How do you make sure your child doesn’t become a victim of cyber-bullying and understands that posting a negative post on Facebook can irreparably damage a life?
We’ve lost many young lives in our battle with bullying. The number of child suicides that have a connection with mean, online posts is not easily ignored.
Usually, in this column, I try to share my concerns, and on occasion I do my best to provide a few answers. It’s possible—in this case—I may leave you with more questions than solutions.
So I invite everyone out there to share resources, upcoming seminars or general tips you have in regard to cyber-bullying that you feel could be useful to parents, counselors and educators. We've got to work together if we expect to make a difference.
Until then, I guess the first step is for us, as parents, to remind our kids to think carefully before they speak, act or press send—emphasizing that on the other end of their words or actions stands a person with feelings.
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.”
We’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating.
Taryn Grimes-Herbert is a screenwriter, performer, the author of the I’ve Got character-building book series for children, and was 2010’s Woman of Achievement in the Arts Honoree for Orange County, NY. Calling upon her professional acting experience on Broadway, film and television, she speaks out and takes her books into classrooms hoping to help kids build character, develop empathy and learn to create a positive future through creative dramatics activities.