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One of my children came home from school very angry one day last week. It seems there is a child there who enjoys putting other children down because they may have freckles, are overweight, too skinny, and whatever else he can find to demean his classmates. This particular day he made my child’s friend cry because of where her mother worked. He asked all of the children where their parents worked (neglecting to tell them about his own), and when the girl stated her mom worked at a convenient store, he proceeded to laugh at her and asked her if her mother was stupid and only made five bucks an hour. My child was livid, and being very outspoken, told the boy to stop hurting the girl’s feelings. The boy shrugged, laughed again, but did return to his desk. He had his satisfaction and was done… for the moment. The girl, on the other hand, spent the day sad and somewhat ashamed of what her mother did for a living. This is elementary school folks. Early years elementary.
I understood my child’s anger. No one should be made to feel ashamed or embarrassed for having any legitimate job; especially in this economy. But I was also haunted by a nagging question in my head. Where did this child learn to make fun of people working service related jobs? Who taught him, at his single-digit age, to be harsh toward people working minimum wage jobs? Could parents’ actually be guilty of instilling social-level discrimination in their children?
After reading some of the things adults post on the web, I would definitely say that answer is yes. Young children have a very small social circle. It’s not like they are wandering the world and learning social-status cynicism in their worldly travels. They aren’t hanging out at a club, on the beach, or at a school for future Rag Mags learning to demean others for their physical characteristics. They are learning this at home. Not all children of course. But if even one is learning this type of behavior, it is one too many.
I read most everywhere on the web. News articles, forums, social sites, blogs, and occasionally even an internet Rag Mag article or two. One thing is consistent with all of these. There are always comments made that are so cruel or insensitive I catch myself flinching from the lack of social decorum. Why? Is it a desire to shock? Are they just naturally cruel? Are they posers who feel much braver behind a keyboard where they can’t get their pixels slapped? Most importantly, are these people raising children?
I fear they are, and those children are in the classroom, playgrounds, etc. with ours. There is no way these people are insensitive, vulgar, and cruel on the net, and Rosie Sunshine when the computer is shut down. Think of all the sarcastic and demeaning things posted on the web, and I can all but guarantee they say the same things in their home. Maybe about a neighbor, a family friend, even family members, and these little ears are soaking it all in. Perhaps the child hears laughter at what is said and mistakes it for a way to be the funny kid at school. He/she could also see people with social graces leave, rather than confront the rude one, and mistake it as a way to be “the tough guy”. Whatever the reason, this behavior is being repeated at school at an early age.
In case my point is being missed, let me clarify. I am not saying children are following any of us on the web. I seriously doubt many young children have ever seen a social networking site, or have ever been remotely interested in news related websites. What I am certain of is that the same people who are insensitive and cruel online are more than likely that way in real life, and children are learning this behavior. Of course I doubt these people will change. The majority will not recognize themselves as the subject of this posting, and the few who do will have the ever-present excuses for their obnoxious behavior. Either that or they will just shrug, laugh, and go back to their desks. They have had their satisfaction and are done…for the moment.
*Just an opinion from someone standing in the cr0ssfire.