Monday, November 30, 2009

Words to Print...

I got a lesson from my son yesterday that was pretty much no fun. My son is young for his cohort, having just turned eleven, though he's a sixth grader. It isn't the first time an issue of this nature has come up, but it has taken on a new flavor...

Some History..

As a fourth grader Sam had a couple accusations of bullying. There was some legitimate stuff and then a boy AND HIS MOTHER flat out making crap up about my kid (which we proved—the principal never said it out loud, but I think he agreed with my assessment, which I insisted they file, that the woman needed years of therapy)... but the legitimate stuff...

You see... groups of kids whisper and talk in not very nice ways sometimes. They say things like “I wish so and so wouldn't play with us, he always tattles.” My son, being young and... overly honest? (It isn't normally a fault, but can be) didn't really understand that he shouldn't then SHARE the group assessment... He was perceived as this 'leader' in excluding. There was quite a long process of sorting the real issues like that from the fictional B.S. brought out by said tattle tale and his mother, but when we finally got to the heart of what had actually happened, we tried our best to teach him 'get along, or walk away'—nobody says you have to be friends with anyone, but keep the thoughts to yourself. Doesn't matter if everyone else is saying it—you saying it TO THEM makes you the one responsible.


Yesterday...

A mom I get along with called... there were some bullying issues... now the last were two years ago and we thought we'd taught the lesson... the difference... Sam got a phone for his birthday and has just taken up texting. Sam and this boy used to be good friends, but have drifted apart in the last few years, which I knew, but they've been texting a lot... (not sure why, but there it is). [I should be clear here, that I don't think there is any 'group think' involved this time—none that I've heard, anyway]

Some of the things Sam said were pretty darned rude—age inappropriate, pestering... He insists he was only teasing, and however rude an inappropriate, I believe he believes that...  it brought up memories of MY early online conversations... Now I was 38 when I first joined an online community, so I was never a badgering teaser, but I watched what could happen—I was on a forum for Harry Potter theorizing, so some of the people present were only teens and lacked some of the self-filtering mechanisms most adults have... (though we had a few sensitive adults, too)


Lessons...


Humor doesn't translate to written words as easily as we think it might. Tone is lacking, as is facial expression—oh, sure, you can add an emoticon or a j/k, but it doesn't necessarily soften the blow... and if you're NEW at it, you may not think to use THOSE. Sarcasm in particular... NEVER comes across as such unless you've adopted our wizard war strategy (which came about after MANY hard feelings) of  '/sarcasm'. My son is OFTEN sarcastic... a set up for trouble


Additionally... it's probably best to only pick on your friends... This is a really difficult concept for kids... people tease, why shouldn't you? Well, from the wrong person, the same thing will be taken wrong... I don't LIKE a lot of the things kids say to each other, and am horrified by some of what Sam said, but I recognize that to his closest friends, they would laugh and send something similar back—no harm/no foul. But you only ever want to tease people who KNOW YOU LIKE THEM and whose REACTION YOU CAN PREDICT. Teasing is a trust issue, like S&M—it is showing faith that it will only go so far because there is a closeness there.


The Written Record is there... forever... for anyone to see, should someone decided to share it. With Sam this was a failing on our part. My daughter's foray into the cyberworld was first MySpace, then Facebook, and THERE we knew to warn about pictures, we made her show us early profiles, for years she was only allowed friends she knew personally, until her savvy grew—teens friend each other's friends like mad, so I know she doesn't know all 600 of her friends, but we started her at a reasonable pace. And I am her FB friend, so I have some idea what she gets up to. Now SHE has been texting for over a year and there haven't been major issues except a few pesky boys that keep bugging her. (I suppose a few mean girlfights, but those are the kind of thing that would have happened by phone in my day, and while horrible, I think are part of being a teenage girl) My husband and I DON'T text... so we didn't think to give Sam the talk about appropriate and inappropriate. We fell down on this one...


I think all of this applies to those of us networking too... somebody is obnoxious and they are a pseudo public figure, so they are fair game? Wrong. Your potential agent may just be a big fan and will consider that your black ball. Somebody published a really bad book and you feel disgruntled? Careful how you word that... might bite you in the butt.

I guess maybe our mothers were right when they said, “If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.”

4 comments:

Tundiel said...

*nods* So, so true. You have to be so careful what you say, especially with the online stuff. I had to get rid of a blog comment a few weeks ago when I suddenly remembered that the person I had cursed, although not actually mentioned by NAME, is actually on my friends list, and therefore could possibly see what I had written. He would have known from the reference that it was him.

And the whole thing about only teasing who you know is bang on. Typically, I greet my sister-in-law as 'slag' or tart' (as you do), but I couldn't get away with that with just *anyone*...

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oh, so true about teasing. I can tease my son, but he won't let anyone else tease him (including my husband.) He just takes it SO seriously, like we're pointing out his personal failures or something (yes, the Type A first born.) But with texting, I guess, it's just hard to tell the context of a statement. Sam thought he was joking around in a friendly way--the problem is really on the other kid's behalf who didn't know how to take it.

As far as negative public comments from others on boards, reviews, etc...you're right. It's more a reflection of the person being snarky than the object of their put-down. They should be aware of alllll the different people who might read their comment--potential employers doing a Google search, too.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Fire and Ice said...

This is so true. I dont have to deal with a child Texting as of yet, (and Im sure by the time she is old enough there will be something newer) but i have had plenty of texts and facebook comments where I actually did get hurt because you really dont know if the person is actually angry with you or just joking.

I agree that it should be kept to a group of people you know arent going to be offended.

Leesh

Watery Tart said...

Tara, you slag! As a moderator I'm sure you end up with HUGE issues related to offended people from time to time! (I've only gotten in trouble for encouraging people to get naked--seems silly to me that people find such silliness ANYTHING but silly, but it's happened)

Elizabeth-I think this 'joking' was along the lines of 'yomama' stuff --insults among boys that are meant as ingroup joking, but the WORDS aren't nice--this boy I believe is being excluded some BECAUSE he takes it all too seriously though--kids need to be taught to step back a little (adults too)

Leesh-I think it can be really HARD to tell if someone is being mean or joking in writing--especially when there ARE hot tempers out there--I once JOKED back when someone was snarky, and MAN did she let me have it *rolls eyes* I tried to calmly explain that my inviting her boyfriend to pudding wrestle ON A FORUM was by no means a real life come on... it was a lot of silliness in my opinion, but MAN was she offended.