Yesterday, in Perry Hall, Maryland, a 15 year old boy was in the cafeteria and announced, “I’m going to kill you.” He then left the lunch room, returning a short time later with a shotgun. Having to put it together—since he had it in his bag—and load it, the gun accidental miss fired and shot a 17 year old boy with special needs, who remains in critical care. This happened 35 minutes from my house. A family friend’s daughter was at the school and was 30 feet from the shooting when it happened. When she got home, she immediately went to the couch and began to suck her thumb in shock. This was her first day of high school.
Why did this happen? Does this type of thing always happen? Bullying! Kids today have methods of bullying that we (assuming your my age 30-ish) didn’t have 15-20 years ago. When I was kid, I was teased, were all were and we all teased back. The thing is, after school, the teasing stopped, being home was a safe zone. During the Summer, it was a time of no teasing, kids were with their friends and away from those who would call them names or pick on them. Today, things are different. Today, there is Facebook, a place were children can be teased relentlessly, without adult supervision, without teachers coming to the aid of those being harassed. With Facebook, or cyber bullying, the mocking and harassing continues after school is over, during the summer months, all day long.
While eliminating Facebook won’t solve the problem, at least altogether, it will curb the main avenue some of these children use to cause harm to others. The problem is that kids don’t realize what they are saying or the impact of their actions or words. These are the same kids that post pictures that could potentially come back to haunt them because of the graphic nature of what they are showing. To them, it makes them popular, in the moment, five years later, it could cost them a job or acceptance into college.
Speaking of college, that was the initial reason Facebook was created, for college kids to keep in touch. Now Facebook has become a marketing tool for companies and place for us to talk to those we wouldn’t normally stop to talk to on the street. But I honestly feel that Facebook needs to be restricted, Facebook needs to be for an audience that is mentally aware of what they are doing and who know the ramifications if things go bad. Facebook should be for people 18 and older, they should require a valid driver’s license upon signing up and require the user to input their license’s number and through a quick verification process, it tells Facebook if you’re 18 or older. If you’re not, you’re denied access. If you’re a business, you simply enter your business or tax ID, this way children under the age can’t simply bypass the age verification test by putting in a false birthday.
I know some of you younger kids may hate this idea, but there is no reason a 10 -14 year old kid needs a Facebook account. While I agree that parents should be the ones raising their kids and taking responsibility, not every parent is “technologically” savvy, some of them have no idea what Facebook is or what children can do on it. When a company makes a product or service that can be potentially dangerous to younger people and children, they typically take the appropriate steps to safe guard those who could be hurt. It works for movies (rating), alcohol and cigarettes. Perhaps now is the time for social networking to step up and put measures in place to prevent cyber bullying.
I know some of you may say, adults do the same thing, hell I’ve read the comments on twitter and even had some hot debates myself. The only difference is I’m old enough to know the difference between some guy calling me a name, simply because he’s hidden behind the cyber veil and I know he’s just a jerk. Children and young adolescents don’t, they take things in a different light, they take it personally, to the point where they will either kill someone out of anger or take their own life because they feel there is no way out.
Anyway, I know some of you may not understand the importance of this issue, as you may not have your own children, but as the father of an 8 year old boy, I’m terrified to think what schools and bullying will be like when he’s in high school if something isn’t done now. Remember, I’m not saying it’s Facebook’s fault or that Facebook should be shut down. All I’m suggesting is that Facebook should put “real” security measures in place to prevent minors from using a service that was initially created for people 18 and over from the start.
P.S. If sites like eHarmony, Match.com, CougarLife.com and other dating sites are 18 and older, why isn’t Facebook? If anything Facebook could be more damaging to an individual, it offers all the same methods of communicating, if not more, like large picture galleries, wall posts, private messaging and to some degree, cyber stalking. Just because it appears to be”friendlier” doesn’t necessarily mean it is.