A July report from the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the U.S. Education Department, found that 20% of students between 12 and 18 were bullied and 15% were bullied online in the 2016-2017 school year.

When the data is updated, the number, sadly, is likely to grow.

The advent of social media in particular has made the potential for bullying constant.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and dozens of other social media apps make it nearly impossible to do what most kids did when they were being picked on 20 years ago: go home and get away from it.

Those who oversee our school districts in 2019 are tasked with figuring out how to overcome the problem, but often, their hands are tied when the conduct doesn’t happen on school time.

It’s a trend that has to stop, and as adults, we need to lead the way — first and foremost, by example, including monitoring our online conduct.

The last two meetings of Masontown Borough Council have been inundated with complaints and allegations about anonymous Facebook pages that take aim at various borough officials and residents.

We’re all for bringing to light legitimate concerns, but a lot of the posts and responses are mean spirited and take (sometimes anonymous) jabs at people. They often include name calling.

One of the pages regularly shares posts attributed to Council President John Stoffa’s personal page.

The one on Oct. 3 pretty much sums up what we should teach our children not to do online.

Obviously upset that he’d been accused of masterminding the anonymous Facebook pages (an allegation he’s vehemently denied), Stoffa took to social media.

“Look at these pathetic losers that hate me. They are mad at themselves and mad at their empty meaningless lives for various pitiful reasons. They made their own terrible choices in life and ended up right at the bottom of the barrel, exactly where they deserve to be,” he wrote.

Well, geeze. That doesn’t seem a very constructive way to express frustration.

And if we can’t get adults on board with being civil and decent online, how are we to expect our children will?

The post came after a particularly heated council meeting on Sept. 24. This Tuesday’s meeting was also heated with about half of it dedicated to social media-centered bickering between some public officials and residents. It included swearing, outbursts and name calling — all of which was inappropriate and sets a terrible example.

We used this space recently to urge better behavior, and tried to be diplomatic. Adults are not without fault and can make poor decisions with their words.

Now, let us be plain: adults should behave like, well, adults.

Raise legitimate concerns respectfully. Stop the name calling and swearing. Stop the blind item posts on social media that take personal digs at people, their names or their appearances. The First Amendment gives you the right to do it, but it doesn’t make what you’re doing right.

It’s easy to be mean behind a screen, but all that does is make the poster the equivalent of a school yard bully.

And that’s not the example we should be setting for the children who look to us to show them how to act.

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