Update: This post was voted a 2012/2013 GirlGuidesCANblog Big Deal Seal winner in the Reader’s Choice category! Bravo blogger Sarah!
This guest blog post was written in response to the recent death of Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons, and the October suicide of Amanda Todd. We encourage Guiders to share this post with your Guides, Pathfinders and Rangers. Then share it with every daughter, mother, aunt, father and brother as an eye opener to how we can (and should) choose to stop bullying and violence against women. Together we can make a difference.
From an adult now on the sidelines of high school:
Dear young girls of Guiding,
Give a moment of your time to an “elder”?
I want to, no, I feel the need for us to have some girl talk. I hope you are already spending time talking to your moms, your leaders, a teacher, a doctor. Someone who listens to you and acts on the issues and problems you have or have asked them to help you with. And while guidance and opinions from others will help you make informed decisions, so will one other thing: being authentic yourself with the one person who should help you build your ethics, morals, self-esteem and confidence: you.
When I was a teenager there were only two ways that gossip spread between my friends: on the telephone at home, or through this sophisticated system: delivered by hand as you passed a friend in the hallway. Only two sets of eyes read these long letters (unless you were caught by a teacher and had it taken away).
I won’t lie to you and say that back then we never talked mean gossip about other girls (our friends or strangers). And I won’t insult you by saying no girl was ever bullied by other girls in my school (or that I didn’t participate in it).
Bullying is not new to our world. But the seeming need to share/post/text details is.
I feel fortunate that as a teen, I didn’t have the Internet, or a cell phone that does more than dial another phone. And especially, I feel fortunate that there was no social media.
The issue with the Internet that you have grown up with is that it is a media, a culture, that is owned by everyone. Both the people trying to do good in the world, and people trying to do bad.
What you have to figure out, make up your own mind about, is where in that world do you stand?
- As a bystander, or
- As someone who stands up for things that are wrong.
There is a big difference between posting/sharing things that are harmful to other people and actually reporting it.
The use of Facebook, Twitter, texting and blogging is still pretty new in the world. Large businesses are spending a lot of money to figure out how to properly use these tools. And many are forgetting to take time to talk to young adults and to some extent, children, on how to best use these tools safely.
My best advice is pretty simple:
- If a text is being sent around with a rumour in it, insert your name there instead of that other person. Would you send it now?
- If a picture is posted where you know something is wrong, picture you or your friend in it. Would you share it now?
- If you are asked to bare a body part that is normally covered to someone who says “trust me, I won’t show anyone,” imagine that picture on every news channel and online. Would you send it now?
No matter what decade you live in, no matter what the generation, being a teenager is hard. But one day you will be sitting where I am (after high school and into your twenties or thirties). My wish for you is that you sit there knowing you stood up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves, or for those who needed the help of fellow classmates/friends to speak up for them, to stop the rumours circulating. I wish you never look back on this time and regret not finding out who you are: a person who does good.
By guest blogger Sarah Lyon of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.