The charges Brandon police have laid against a 12-year-old girl underscore the critical and difficult role of parents in educating youth about the harm of bullying and the risk taken when putting thought to virtual paper. The adolescent's threat -- police say two girls were threatened with harm -- was posted on a social media site, physical evidence and grounds for the charge of uttering threats.
Long gone are the days when taunts of punching someone's lights out in the playground elicited a stern "break it up" from a teacher. Bullying is recognized for the lasting harm it can do.
Electronic devices that are standard tools of youth -- cellphones, iPods, netbooks -- have curbed the ability of parents to monitor the social interaction of children. The vast reach of social networking on sites such as Facebook and Twitter means messages, pictures and videos are broadcast at lightning speed and cannot be erased. Posters become publishers weighted with legal responsibility, even at tender ages.
Schools have lessons on the appropriate use of classroom technology, but few children rely on desktop or laptop computers to "chat." Cellphones allow messaging 24/7.
Parents have greater cause to educate their kids on appropriate social interaction and the dangers of posting what might seem an innocent comment or picture about themselves or others. Age-old lessons of respect and treating others as you would want to be treated may seem antiquated but, in fact, are more relevant today. Reinforcing the messages of basic civility that youth learned as toddlers is critical, particularly as technology opens new fronts in communication.