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This week two girls aged 12 and 14 were were arrested on aggravated stalking charges in relation to the death of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, who committed suicide last month after being cyberbullied.
What makes this case notable for parents everywhere is not only the tragic loss of Rebecca, but also the age of the girls charged in Florida and the seriousness of the charges.
These rare but serious cases of kids taking their own lives in response to bullying grab our attention and raise a lot of questions: Should we as a society hold parents accountable if their kids are engaged in cyberbullying? Is it appropriate to hold pre-teens responsible for the suicide of another child? And most of all, of course, how do we prevent bullying in the first place?
I’d like to point you all to some of the work Emily Bazelton over at Slate has been doing around the issue of cyberbullying and bullying in general. She has a few things to say about this story right here.
The take-home message is that we really do need to talk to our kids in an open and honest way about how we treat each other in all arenas: On the street, at school and online. It’s probably not that unusual for kids to think awful things about other kids. But we need to help them develop empathy and compassion way before they get on Facebook and start posting them. As parents, we need to look at all the sides of the issue, whether our kids are at risk of being bullied, of engaging in bullying behaviour or a part of the majority of kids who are bystanders and who also have a role to play
We also need to understand that the impact of bullying on kids is not just social (although that is bad enough) — it’s a health issue. Absenteeism, drug and alcohol abuse and depression are linked to bullying. And we need to make it clear to kids that suicide is never the answer, and there’s help out there available across Canada 24-7.
For great reading on this topic, particularly if you have school-aged kids, I recommend Bazelton’s Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy as well as Barbara Coloroso’s accessible The Bully The Bullied and the Bystander.
And of course I’d like to invite you to read about Carol Todd, whose commitment to anti-bullying and courage in sharing her daughter Amanda Todd’s story put her on our Me to We Award winners’ list. (Click through to find out about the Amanda Todd Legacy Fund.)
This just in: Over at Embrace the Chaos, Emma Waverman has a great guide to Facebook’s anti-bullying tools.
We’ve also got good help for parents thinking through these issues right here on CanadianLiving.com:
- School bullies: How to help your child
- Instilling compassion in children (an interview with the aforementioned Barbara Coloroso)
- Adult bullying: Is it happening to you?
How have you found yourself talking about bullying with your kids, or friends and family?
Poor, poor Jen:
Then her tales of single life woes are eclipsed by Brangelina having a baby.
And then, just as she tries to revive her status and resurface again, wham! they have twins.
It just doesn’t stop.
Every time she tries to get back on top of the tabloids, wham! they keep slamming her back down.
Wham! They get a house in France. Wham! The whole clan become goodwill ambassadors for the U.N. Wham! They make a film people actually want to see. And then another, and another, and yes, another!!
So now Jen’s finally got a baby bump, and just as the “candid” pictures are set to go viral, that damn Angelina wham! has a voluntary double mastectomy, and becomes a heroine and symbol of hope for breast cancer sufferers and survivors everywhere.
Can this woman not get a break? She’s decried the Rachel haircut that made her famous and spawned millions of acolytes, alienated Friends, made us forget Leprechaun, so what, oh PR gods, is there left for her to do??
Rumours are already abounding that Angie’s going to have her ovaries removed too, so really, Jen, sorry to say, you’re out of luck.
As for the rest of us, if we can ever get our heads out of the tabloids and stop trivializing the merits and failings of people whose everyday dealings are largely insignificant, we might recognize the courage it takes a woman to do what Angie did.
I know 3 women who’ve done it and I wish it were their stories you were reading about instead of debating if Angie is a hero or not.
For the record, she is.
More importantly, so are they.
A study released a month ago shows that the human papilloma virus or HPV vaccine used to protect against cervical cancer does not lead to girls being more promiscuous.
The study compares medical records for vaccinated and unvaccinated girls, looking at “markers” of sexual activity such as whether girls had sought birth control advice; tests for sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy; or had become pregnant. No difference in rates of those markers were found between those vaccinated compared with those who were not.
HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer and has also been linked with anal and oral cancers in women and men. Three doses of HPV vaccine shots are recommended for girls and boys at age 11 or 12, before they have had sex.
Opponents of the vaccine claim it would promote promiscuity among youth and threaten chastity. In fact, the Calgary Catholic School District has decided against offering the vaccine to its students, and only just opened up the decision for discussion with parents.
I for one am fairly relieved that there’s something that can actually help prevent cancer given that everything seems carcinogenic these days. And I do plan to have my child vaccinated when she’s old enough (though my husband may have her bubble complete by then). I’m not worried at all that it’ll encourage her to have sex earlier. I’m hoping I’ll have put enough sense in her head by then that she doesn’t mistake a needle for a license to have sex.
What do you think? Does the HPV vaccine encourage sex among adolescents? Have you or would you have your child vaccinated? Should school boards be allowed to make such decisions on behalf of parents?