Teach your children well…
Child Abuse… Again.
Every time it happens, we rant in outrage or bow our heads and mumble about the inevitability of it all.
But neither response provides any relief for the powerlessness we feel.
The outraged, campaign and raise money to track down the perpetrators.
For the bowed heads, it’s yet another reason to lock up children and ensure they live a fear filled life.
Many of these children go on to live the half-life provided by social media. A kind of twilight zone of life lived through a screen.
But far from being safe in their own homes, it means they can now fall victim to a far greater evil. Take the case of Amanda Todd, a 14 year old lonely girl struggling (like all children) to make the transition from child to adult.
We’ve all been there. We can look back at diaries (AAARGH! REMEMBER THOSE DIARIES?!) that reveal our lack of discernment in the choices we made about what was appropriate behavior. Our reaction to these is either cringe making shame (OH MY GOD, WHAT WAS I THINKING!) or compassion – after all we were little more than children at the time.
Social media turns this simple rite of passage into a whole new ball game with very, very high stakes.
Amanda was easy prey for a 32 year old man posing as a teenager. This man built her up, calling her “beautiful and stunning”. To any teenage girl with low self-esteem (probably 99% of all teenagers) these adjectives are like manna from heaven. Which means they’re also like heroin. They should come with a health warning.
Danger… highly addictive adjectives!
When the adjectives dried up, it took very little persuasion for her to agree to take her top off and send the requested picture to her ‘special friend’.
Of course this special friend was a sick adult misogynist who purposely lured her into this trap in order to “bring her down.”
The rest is history… he circulated her naked breasts across the net. Her life turned into a downward spiral of ridicule, alienation, self-loathing and eventually, self-harm.
One inappropriate choice. A lifetime of consequence so abhorrent that she chose to end her life rather than endure it a moment longer.
And the consequences for this evil man? Well, he hasn’t actually broken any laws so hasn’t even been charged yet. Er hello? Then make some new frickin’ laws.
The problem needs a better definition. So I’ll attempt one…
Everything is about power.
There is not one thing we do, say, wear or buy that does not have a component of power. At the root of everything, we’re either trying to get more power or we’re trying to abdicate power…
Getting Power: If I wear a DKNY suit, suck up to the Boss, get a six pack, drive a Ferrari, work ridiculously hard, win the competition… will I get more power so I can control the chaos of life?
Abdicating Power: If I act helpless, look like a cast member of Les Mis, tell my sad story, create drama, buy lottery tickets, let other people win… will someone take care of me? (Whether that’s Prince Charming, Lady Luck or Social Security) thus making the chaos of life go away.
This to me seems pretty OBVIOUS.
So, in view of the bleedingly obvious, what do we teach our children in schools? How to navigate power, how to manage energy, how to co-exist with chaos?
NO! For some reason (despite the fact that they all have Google at their fingertips) we teach them INFORMATION. The repeal of the corn laws, the average rainfall in Patagonia, the death toll in the Civil war.
Children are now so left-brained that they don’t even know how to trust their feelings. Yet their feelings are their inner GPS that will enable them to navigate to anywhere they want to go – safely.
Feelings are the “early warning” device that alerts us to something being “not quite right”. If this isn’t in place, it’s easy to adapt to the new reality, then slowly the boundary is moved until suddenly the enemy is at the door and it’s game over.
This is how most child abuse happens. Not by some random stranger jumping out from behind a wall looking like a bogey man. It happens in stealth, in plain sight.
It’s like the frog and the boiling water. Put a frog in boiling water and he’ll scream or jump right out. Put a frog in warm water and slowly turn up the temperature and he can get cooked before he’s even aware of the danger.
The internet is not just a tool, it’s a powerful tool. Yet, we’ve thrown it into the classroom and the home as if it’s a more sophisticated version of a text book. A state of the art communication device.
It’s more than that. It has the power to change the world for the better, and the power to change the world for the worse. In this way it’s more like a nuclear device.
Would anyone seriously consider giving one of those to children without the necessary instruction?
Anyone who has met or seen photographs of Jimmy Savile will say there was “something very creepy” about him.
This is a FEELING so of course was dismissed as irrelevant in the face of the INFORMATION that said he did good works and provided much needed resources for children, the sick and the disabled.
There will always be evil people and now that we have the internet, these people can remain anonymous (like Amanda Todd’s persecutor) or hide “in plain sight” like Jimmy Savile.
Trying to control them is impossible. Raising money to form anti paedophile organisations, and teaching children to be frightened are equally ineffective.
It’s time to teach children to understand, evaluate and trust their feelings.
Time to ditch the slavish devotion to information and develop instinct and intuition.
Perhaps then more of our little frogs might be spared a fate worse than death.
Wall of shame continues…
As a Mum of two small children it is such a worry. My son is about to start school. Seeing him sit behind his oversized desk with letters on the wall… I had such a gut feeling this was all wrong. This will not equip him for life – that’s my job and it feels bloody big and I’m not sure how to do it. Thanks for your insight – wise words.
Another good article. I always like the way you intertwine psychology, the media, group/social dynamics, popular culture and wisdom. With a heavy dose of humour and common sense.
I believe that children are our future, teach the well and let them lead the way, great blog lovely you Jon Txx