Tag Archives: children

It’s a question of… cyberbullying

I’ve always been wary of people in a group. Somehow, being in a group can lead us humans to do appalling acts we would have been quite incapable of engaging in on our own. Perfectly nice people become bullies, and otherwise petty aggressors become outright criminals. This is why I always try to steer clear of people in groups on streets and in public transports and why I’ve never been totally at ease in a stadium.

Recently, I’ve been painfully reminded about what hurtful consequences the “group effect” can also have in a playground and how an otherwise happy and confident child can be reduced to a unhappy and insecure one in just a few days of “group therapy”. Luckily, my son is still in an age where he tells me a lot of what goes on in school and I can still do some damage repair.

However, I believe that anyone who’s been a target for bullying will remember it for life. I still recall the many times I sat huddled up in a corner of the playground hidden under my coat while my classmates made fun of my name… And yet, compared to what I see and hear about today, that’s nothing.

I also remember with much shame a few episodes where I was the one “helping” with bullying someone. It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t the leader of the pack. Whether you’re in the pack or outside but not doing anything to stop it, it’s still terribly wrong and damaging. Peer pressure might be an explanation, but it’s never a viable excuse.

Children can be incredibly cruel to one another. I don’t know if it’s because they’re too young to understand how hurtful they can be, if their minds are not yet evolved enough, or if it’s because they’re not yet as good retaining their natural human instinct as (most) grown-ups are. Another reason may be a lack of proper adult supervision or appropriate “moral input”…

The reason I’m writing all this? I received an invitation yesterday from a young girl I know to join a Facebook group. The group was directed against a schoolmate of hers. I have no idea who the targeted girl is but I can well imagine how the creation of this group has affected her because it affected me deeply.

I suddenly got a preview of what kind of bullying my own child can become a victim of – or generate himself – within a very short time. And I find it frightening. The girl who sent me the hate group invitation is an otherwise intelligent and sweet girl, from a loving family – which is probably why her act shocked me even more. If she can do this kind of heartless and stupid thing without measuring the consequences, I can only imagine what those bullying my child in the playground today will be capable of doing online tomorrow.

The worst thing about it? If or when it happens, I won’t be able to do as much as I’d like. Because the older he gets, the less I’ll be able to monitor his each and every move online and off.

A recent UK study revealed that 50% of young people have been cyberbullied and 29% had told no one about it. An American study showed that cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to youth who had not experienced cyberbullying.

There are so many, many things to protect your children from today and so many things to teach them. It’s no longer a question of not accepting sweets from a stranger, looking out for cars before crossing the street or saying no to drugs. Amongst many other new dangers, parents have to teach their children Internet safety and online behaviour too – and let’s be honest, many of us don’t respect – or understand – a lot of this ourselves.

To the girl who sent me that Facebook invitation and to the ones who joined her group, I would however like to repeat what my parents taught me long before Internet was invented and what I in turn tell my own son very often: Always treat others the way you want to be treated. It may be ancient advice, but it works in cyberspace too.

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Filed under Fly on the windscreen

It’s a question of… escalator accidents

There are things in life you never think about – until they happen to you. Like escalator accidents. And surprisingly, once they do happen and you tell others about it, you suddenly find out that everyone else has an escalator story to tell too.

Considering the awful things I’ve heard from others, my own experience – even though it left me walking through a crowded station in my underpants – wasn’t that bad. Unlike some who have had clothing or shoes stuck in escalators, I didn’t lose any fingers or toes, just my dignity.

For reasons I’m unable to explain, my skirt got sucked into the gap between the side of the escalator and the moving steps one morning in the underground (or subway if you prefer). I tried to pull it out, but it just kept disappearing farther into the gap. Alerted by my (really frantic) screaming, someone pushed the emergency button just in time. By then, I was at the end of the escalator, on my knees, and unable to move.

I stayed in that not so flattering (nor comfortable) position for half an hour while the staff tried to reverse the sense of the escalator and get the skirt free. It couldn’t be done. I was therefore asked to take off my skirt and cross the station (rush hour…) in my that-day-not-so-sexy panties to reach the railway offices. Here, a train operator (who was smiling a little too much) lent me a pair of his spare trousers (and may I add, they were not my size or colours).

I later found out that escalator accidents happen quite often. Apparently, in the States, 10 000 people end up in the emergency room every year because of them (I don’t know the numbers in France). The victims are often children standing too close to the sides or sitting down, or teenagers who don’t do their shoelaces, or silly people like myself who wear too long skirts… Apparently, Crocs shoe wearers are also very escalator accident-prone. And so are dogs. A friend of mine told me of a terrible accident she saw where the dog’s paw got ripped off. Escalators are more powerful than you can imagine.

Before my embarrassing, and yes, a little scary, skirt experience, I never thought about the dangers of escalators. When hearing about accidents, I had the classic “that would never happen to me / my child / anyone I know” reaction. I mean, how difficult can it be to get on and off an escalator? Now, I know better. I take the stairs whenever possible and have become quite hysterical about how and where my son stands on the steps when we do take the escalator. I now also wear pretty underwear every day. You never know…

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Filed under Life in general

It’s a question of… finding excuses

Finding excuses starts from a very young age. My son has already perfected the art to a point where he can explain quiet convincingly why he can’t: find the laundry basket / tidy his room / do his homework now (basically: because I said so, but of course that’s not how he puts it). I don’t blame him. Making excuses is a honourable attempt to avoid getting told off, especially when you’re a child (or a man, but that’s another story).

As you get older, you start making excuses for others, starting with the guy you’re in love with (who doesn’t call because he: is afraid of committing / has got a lot of work / must spend time with his friends) or want to live with (but who can’t leave his wife because: he still loves her / she’s the mother of his children / a divorce would ruin him / she’s sick, etc., etc.).

I’ve been quiet a good excuse-finder in the “boyfriend area”, but today the only other person I find excuses for is my son. I undertake this so others might see that despite him doing or saying certain “not-so-good” things, he is a wonderful child (it’s just that he’s tired / bored in school / still so young).

I spend much more time finding excuses for myself though. What has changed is that I’m not making all these excuses to avoid getting told off (my parents and friends have long stopped listening to my excuses and tell me off anyway). I’m finding excuses for myself in order to “feel better”. I know this is plain stupid. Because ultimately, no matter how good my excuses are for not doing the things I should, I don’t feel better for not doing them.

So I’m going to try a new experiment: I’m not going to make any more excuses for myself for a month and see where it takes me. Maybe I’ll feel less of a failure – and maybe, just maybe, I might get a few more things done!

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