Heather Ijames

Friday, Feb 22 2013 08:00 PM

HEATHER IJAMES: Bullying's not OK -- for children or adults

By Heather Ijames

Our society seems to be hyper-vigilant on calling out bullying and "wrongdoing" these days, and I'm all right with that. For example, when my boys are watching Nickelodeon or some other cartoon show, they now have PSAs where teen actors go into step-by-step instructions on how to either prevent bullying, how to get an adult's attention, or how to stand up for those in need.

I think, (I hope), it will work for our children and our schools. So, in the same vein of calling out bullying and trying to get an "adult's attention," I want to point out a different type of bullying. When I first saw this behavior, I didn't immediately recognize it for bullying because it doesn't involve slamming people against lockers or giving them swirlies, but it's some definite arm-twisting, that's for sure.

So, what's got my undies in a bunch this time? Well, lots, but in particular, I saw a page on Facebook called the Car Seat Lady, where the administrator of the page seems to hunt the Internet and other media to find pictures of children she deems improperly buckled in a vehicle.

She then takes said photo, blasts it on her site, and then starts dissecting how capital W-R-O-N-G the parents are for such a horrible buckling job. If the picture is part of an ad that she swiped from a business, she'll further criticize said business because they are extra wrong. She says they're exploiting children by using them to help spread "bad buckling." Exploiting children ... the irony. I don't think this woman quite understands copyright and privacy laws, but I'll leave that one alone.

The real heat of the matter, however, is not so much what the Car Seat Lady does and says, it's what her 13k+ followers have to say. Things like those who don't agree with them are awful, horrible, despicable parents who are not only too stupid to buckle their kids right, but probably also feed them scorpions and thumbtacks for dinner. You know, warm and fuzzy comments like that.

Their conclusion on the matter is something like, "If you don't do it our way, then you must not care about your children living another day."

Here's a definition of bullying: To use superior strength or influence to intimidate, typically to force him or her to do what one wants.

Take this definition and apply it to what we see in both traditional and social media, where one can spout out whatever they feel like, however they feel like, and then hide behind the First Amendment. And, they can. That's what the First Amendment was made for. I get that and admire that, but that doesn't mean people aren't acting like bullies -- even if they have an absolute right to do so.

My point is that if we are telling our kids it isn't all right to call each other names, or to force others into doing things their way, then I'm sorry, when do those rules stop being applicable to adults? 18? 29? Or, maybe it's when one thinks they're the smartest person in the whole wide world who has absolutely everything under the sun figured out from politics to car seats.

Politics. That's a can of worms of sanctioned bullying. I'd heard that there was a backlash at certain schools when elementary kids criticized each other based on who their respective parents had voted for on that November Tuesday. Lectures and punishments followed. Yet, in my personal Facebook feed on the same day ... well, hold on to your hard hats folks! No one was going to be called into the principal's office for that language and trash talk, though.

But it's different, right? At least that's what I'm guessing is the rationale. We as adults can take the name-calling, intelligence mocking and moral assaults in stride. Right? Is that the consensus now?

I mean, no, you're not hurting my feelings, but that's not to say there isn't a lot of damage being doled out on others who maybe can't handle it as well. Not to mention that if adults personally feel that their children shouldn't let anything but kind, thoughtful, helpful, and/or encouraging words escape their mouths, then isn't that the same way they should live? Aren't we trying to educate the next generation by example?

The world's a big place and there's room for differing opinion. Yet, I don't think there's even a square inch of property left for unkindness. We're tapped out in that regard, so I'm thinking it's time to bite our tongues and shake hands, rather than biting hands and unleashing our tongues.

-- Heather Ijames is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. These are the opinions of Ijames, not necessarily The Californian. Send email to her at heatherijames@hotmail.com. Next week: Inga Barks.

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