Friday, October 12, 2012

Amanda Todd

What does a culture obsessed with sex and beauty do to our children?  I find this to be a chilling example of the more horrifying consequences.

Let us start with the breakdown of family. With close to half of marriages ending in divorce and half of pregnancies occurring outside of marriage (and only half of those babies surviving the pregnancy) we are facing a growing number of our children living in single parent homes. God Bless those single parents for all they do for their children. God Bless parents raising their children in less than ideal situations: I have a loving and supportive husband that is actively involved in his children’s lives and parenting is still challenging! It is also becoming increasingly difficult to support a family on one income, meaning often you have both parents working if both are in the home.

What do these things result in for our children? Often, it means exhausted parents. It can mean exhausted, uninvolved parents. I mention these things not to place blame, but to offer some perspective and context for the lives our children live. Our public schools are taking on some things that used to be parental territory… what choices to schools and teachers have?  

Now we move on to social media: texting, cell phones, computer accounts such as Facebook and YouTube, email…. As an adult constant contact with my friends and family is both incredible and overwhelming at the same time; I truly cannot imagine experiencing this barrage of contact when I was young and at what was perhaps my most vulnerable.

While our politicians support abstinence only education, our kids are not really getting the information they need. Most often they hear “Don’t do it.” or “Use protection if you do it.” Neither of these statements educates our children on the responsibilities of sex, or reasons to postpone that part of their life. What are we telling them? A focus on sex and beauty has devastating consequences for our children. These things are fleeting, and create a false sense of worth in the wrong context. They are about instant gratification, especially when inserted into our teenager’s lives. "Someone wants me"... when the reality is at that age they are more likely to be used for sex than it being about love.

Our girls in particular are also in a place where the emphasis is placed on their looks. If you walk by the girl’s clothing section, you see sparkles galore, and revealing clothing, while the boy’s section leans more towards sporting attire. Then there is the rather larger makeup section to boot. From the time they are tweens, there are beauty products to make them look their best. Today’s children are in an increasingly uphill battle: some lack access to parents, they face pressure to always be connected to peers, and they live in a culture that puts a premium on beauty and sex. Is it coincidental that all this begins to happen during a tumultuous time in life?

Take my teen years for example. I was a tall, lanky kid that had boobs. I was awkward with boys, and I did not know how to be comfortable in my own skin. However, I had parents and teachers support my educational needs when I needed advanced classes beginning in the 5th grade at a small Catholic school. I had a firm grasp on my faith. I may have been insecure about how I looked, but I was supported in a multitude of other areas. I had fall backs. I had a mom that listened when she asked what I saw in the mirror. My parents were also honest with me about how I came to be in this world. I do not remember a single sex talk. I remember asking questions multiple times, and working out solid reasons why sex was something that did not fit in with what I wanted for my life at that time. (Yes, this meant heartbreak in several instances.) I saw the sacrifices my mom made so that she could be my mom, and I came to the conclusion that to make those sacrifices really count, I could be all that I was capable of being. That steely resolve also came from being told by one of my aunts that there is no way I would make it out of high school a virgin, so maybe I just like proving people wrong!

These convictions meant heartache. I was not confident in all aspects of life. I recall getting up the courage to ask a boy from a different school to the city-wide 8th grade recognition dance. He said yes and I was on cloud 9…. for about a week. One day when I was changing out of my uniform to go to the high school for Spanish classes, the kids in my class forgot I was still there and began talking about how some of the guys were on a football team with this boy and he had no idea what I was talking about. I was crushed. I walked down the alley to my grandma’s instead of going to class so I could get a ride home. I called him as soon as he got home and canceled our date. I spent the whole summer avoiding him, only to become close friends with him in high school. I later found out there was another boy that played football with the same name, but mortified does not even begin to describe how I felt as I cowered in the bathroom stall, listening to them talk about me.

My point is, being a teenager is TOUGH. I cannot imagine surviving through it all if there was no escape from the chatter. When I went home, I had a choice to not pick up the phone. If I had a cell and a computer at that age my life would have been purely social, and not always in a good way.

This brings me to this story I linked to above. It is so easy to relate to Amanda in many ways. I remember how difficult life was (or seemed) then, only she had the added scrutiny of YouTube among other things.

I do not want this for my daughter any more than Amanda’s parents wanted it for her. We must be better than this.

Ending tragedy’s like this starts with putting the focus on bullying.  It starts with instilling in our children how to treat others with respect, and modeling that respect. If our children hear or see us treating others poorly, it speaks louder than any lecture we give them.

It begins with building our children up so that they have the confidence to overcome bullying, and to not be a part of the bullying. Our children should all be the ones strong enough to stand up for someone that needs a friend or an ally.

It begins with taking a hard look at age appropriate discussions and activities for our children. We cannot always be there to protect them, but we can strive to be the voice in their heads when they get into a tricky situation.

My heartfelt prayers go out to Amanda and her family. We must work towards another family never having to endure this kind of pain.
I would like to say that at the time I am updating this post, of the 42 hits it has received, 21 of them have been the result of searches for some form of "Amanda Todd's boobs".
Is it any wonder that this young girl struggled? She took her own life and people are still searching for dirty photos of her. We all should be appalled at the lack of class. I cannot even begin to describe how disturbed I am by this.
I fully realize that if I remove this young woman's name from the post, those type of hits will likely cease. I will do no such thing: after all the faceless vicimization Amanda had to endure, I will do my best to honor her by using her name. She was a person, not an object. She has a name.

1 comment:

  1. A woman that works in a business that works closely with my company lost her beautiful daughter to bully induced suicide last year. It was heartbreaking. she was actually a former student at the school my sister taught at, and it broke all of their hearts as well. I know that when I was a teenager, if we were bullied it was face to face, and the bully always took the chance of getting punched, or at least of seeing the pain they caused. Now? they just do it by text, FB, email...and never have to be anywhere near the victim, so they just don't care.
    it has to be stopped. I don't know how, but it has be stopped somehow.


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