Being a teenager has never been easy, but life for teens today is unimaginable compared to what - yes, we're getting old - seem like the good old days.
We're talking about the days before social media, which some teens use to relentlessly bully others, and from which those targeted must feel there is no escape.
We're all familiar with the tragic case of Amanda Todd, the PoCo teen who killed herself last year after being the target of cyberbullies. Now, the PoCoMo Youth Services Society is raising concerns over a website, called Ask. fm, that allows teens to ask other teens questions. If that sounds innocent, it's not. The "questions" can turn nasty, and become attacks such as "Why are you such a loser?" or "Why did you sleep with so and so?" To an adult, the whole thing is ridiculous and the answer is simple: don't open yourself up for attack by participating in this forum.
To a teen, however, especially one struggling with selfesteem and identity issues, these attacks may as well be beatings in the school parking lot. And the humiliation is increased because unlike a one-off physical assault or taunting in the schoolyard, the abuse unleashed on social media leaves a permanent record that can even follow a teen - or younger victim - from one school or district to another.
There's no easy answer to the problem of cyberbullying. Like a car, social media is not positive or negative, but neutral. Like a car driven by a drunk driver, though, social media in the hands of bullies is a teen's worst nightmare.
Already in Britain, according to media reports, four teen suicides have been linked to abuse via Ask.fm during the past year.
Tri-Cities parents, who may just be learning of this site, are encouraged to keep an open dialogue with their kids about social media.
Ignoring this problem won't make it go away. But talking about it is a good beginning.
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