My teenage years were a traumatic time of my life that I wish I could forget. I really remember continually being picked on. I was the prototypical geek. I loved reading and science and dreamt of being an engineer. However I was short, stocky, shy, awkward, and very slow to physically mature. I had lots of other interests, most of them in common with all of the other teens around me, but it was my appearance that some decided to focus on. I can admit to it now, though it still haunts me to this day, I was bullied. It was one of the darkest times of my life. A time, where as a young man, I didn’t believe things would ever get any better. Thankfully, my parents and friends recognized that I was having problems, and were able to steer me back onto a path of life that was brighter and going to take a lot longer to travel than my teens.
When things did get bad, I had places to hide. I could take solace in my books, or judo classes. Even playing hockey was an escape since I played with kids from other neighbourhoods. I was lucky. Anonymity could still be obtained in my youth. I can’t say the same for kids that are bullied today. While I am sure physical abuse still carries on, it’s cyber-bullying that really terrifies me. You may never know who your attacker is, and as long as you have a digital presence anywhere in the world, the attacker can repeatedly go after you. Even deceive your friends into thinking you’re some bad person, influencing them to turn their backs on you when you need them the most.
With this being my last entry for 2013 I felt I’d be remiss if I didn’t skim the surface of one of the worst side effects of the Internet. Cyber-capping is one of the lowest forms of confrontation, and abuse someone can take. Not only can the attacker demoralize and rip apart someone’s self-esteem, they can do this from the relatively safe comfort of their parent’s basement, while hiding behind the mask of anonymity.
These degenerate “lowlifes” troll the Internet looking for vulnerable teenagers that are sharing their lives through their webcams. They sweet-talk and eventually persuade these kids into to doing things they wouldn’t normally do on camera, the victims believing these people are someone they can trust. The troll then captures the stream, or takes a screen shot and uses it later on to blackmail the teen into performing again and again with no end in sight. It’s an emotional downward spiral for this victim, and in today’s socially obsessed teens life, impossible to hide from.
I am not the first person at the table to talk about this situation, and I won’t be the last. I don’t have any solutions to offer, nor should I, as I am not a parent myself. I do believe that teenage years are some of the most turbulent times a person will ever face. Some breeze through, some struggle. The only advice I can muster is to be educated. Parents, talk to your kids. Friends, if you see your friend struggling talk to someone. Get them help. Make as much noise about the problem as you can. Stand up for those who are having a hard time standing up for themselves.
My inspiration for this week’s post was Amanda Todd. If you familiar with this young woman’s story, you should click the link and watch the show that was posted by the CBC’s the fifth estate. It’s an absolutely heart wrenching documentary on the hardships that Amanda faced after making one silly mistake while online one day. In the end, Amanda took her own life. Please, don’t let this happen to someone you care about.
Until next time
A Clockwork Techie
P.S. The Canadian government introduced Bill C-13 in an effort to combat this form of bullying. While the bill still needs to be debated in Parliament it’s a start to help combat cyber-bullying within this country.