Bullying an age old problem exacerbated by technology [Editorial]

While technology marches on, very little about human nature changes.

Technology just amplifies, expedites or expands what people have been doing — good or bad — since the dawn of human existence.

Bullying is no exception. The sinister impulse for the strong to try to manipulate the weak has been around from the start, and one of the most basic teachings on morality relates to fighting this impulse. Known as the Golden Rule, that teaching says we should treat others as we would like to be treated.

It seems basic enough, and easy enough, but the story of human existence is rife with instances of people failing to follow what they learned, or should have learned, as toddlers. Just about every social ill from lunch money heists to genocide can be blamed on a failure to comply with the Golden Rule.

And technology exacerbates the problem.

In the matter of school-age bullying as it relates to technology, a subject reviewed at some length at a session last week in Harford County, the use of social media outlets allows for giving a wider audience to the uncivilized practice of belittling. Where gossip spread from person to person at the lunch table was hurtful enough, the proliferation of the telephone made rumors that much worse. Now the array of Internet forums gives a potentially international audience to nasty innuendo.

Moreover, technology makes it all too easy to forget common courtesy and fire off a nasty email, post an untoward comment or forward a coarse text message. This problem, which can be seen as a form of bullying, knows no age, though many of us are old enough that we should know better.

October is Bullying Prevention Month (the impetus for last week's gathering), and makes now as good a time as any to turn a greater level of focus to the problem. As always has been the case, parents do well to monitor their children's social activities, with the realization that the same child can be both a bully and a victim. Technology makes such monitoring harder because there's more to monitor, but it also makes it easier because it provides rather universal access.

Meanwhile, taking to heart the notion of treating others as we would like to be treated would go a long way toward solving the bullying problem. If only...

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