Today, COVID-19 has instilled a new meaning on what it means to be ‘digitally competent.’ With an even higher reliance on the digital platforms we use to communicate, it comes at a cost. Traditionally, when parents hear about bullying, it usually involves their child and school or in today’s digital age, their child online.
But unfortunately, what we’ve started to see is a shift in “power”—what happens when the parent is the bully, creating issues not just for other users (kids) online, but for other parents?
With COVID-19 keeping the world in isolation, held together by federal and state rules surrounding curfews and stay-at-home orders, bad behaviors may escalate online, especially when the entire world is literally on edge, yearning for any form of social interaction.
I don't care what global pandemic is next on our plate, there is never an excuse for a parent (or anyone) to specifically target another person, especially a child. But don’t be fooled, this isn’t a new behavior—just one that has been pushed to the surface because of the coronavirus.
As a Hollywood brand and reputation manager, I have the luxury of working with a number of talents, including child stars and tween idols—many of which are managed by their parents. With the parents operating as the driving force behind their kid’s career, it’s one where they always want their child to be at the top of the ladder—no matter the cost.
Yet, what I've never understood is watching how parents to these children, who are supposed to be their guide and support, and are often their child's managers/financial source, end up being toxic to them and everyone around them, including business relationships.
Watching a parent make decisions that they claim are "in the best interests of their child" and for their career, where in reality, is just an extension of what's best for the parent, is gut-wrenching. I've seen parents to these kids bully their kids friends and other parents, hoping to control the circles in which their child travels in. It's pathetic.
Unfortunately, when you see the kid’s friendships begin to fall apart because of the actions of the parents, it’s certainly gut-wrenching, because the children begin to pick up their parent’s bad behavior, thinking it’s okay. Picking on other kids because they don’t fall in line with what you want your child to be surrounded with isn’t okay.
TikTok star or not, today’s version of bullying comes in a variety of forms—so here’s what you need to know if you are being harassed by another parent online:
#1—You’re Looking Fear in the Eye (or Webcam)
In most cases, if you find yourself being harassed by another parent, there’s usually a strong driver behind it—fear. Traditionally speaking, whether we are talking about children or adults, this is a cry for help—whether it’s financial hardship, divorce, or other personal issues where the adult is acting out in a world where they cannot see the consequence of their behavior.
Rather than take it personally, take pity for them. Feel for them. And move on. Do not let someone you’ve never met ever steal your energy.
#2—Distinguishing Logic from Emotion
One of the most dangerous weapons we have today is our emotions. When we start to think and act out of emotion, rather than logic, we become very dangerous—to ourselves and to others. There’s certainly a difference between “reacting” and “responding”.
Reacting With Emotion (Rather Than Logic)
When you are reacting to a situation, usually it’s out of impulsive with very little thought behind it. This is usually when an individual reacts with high-energy emotion without thinking it through. Think of it as a ‘heat of the moment’ scenario.
Do you know what the world’s biggest lie is today?
Sticks and stones.
We’ve had that silly little hymn ingrained in our brains since as long as we can remember, and unfortunately, it’s the very first lie we as humans have been exposed to coming into this world. Words do hurt and they do have power. It’s what we choose to do with those words that control the level of pain that stems from it.
Responding With Logic (Rather Than Emotion)
When you are responding to a situation, there is usually some thought and logic behind it. You are acting with intent and because you understand the cards that are before you.
If you find yourself “screen-to-screen” with another adult, ask yourself what outcome you want to see from this conflict. Remember, always, you are in control of the outcome. You can choose to allow the other individual to see they have gotten to you, or you can choose to make them feel silly by choosing the method in which you choose to respond—see what I did there—you don’t ever want to react.
With great power and technology, comes great responsibility. And for you Tobey McGuire and Spiderman fans, I adapted that quote.
#3—Look for Productive Conversation
The last thing you want to do is get into a pissing match with the other parent publicly online. Why? Because at the end of the day, you both look stupid. Sorry, not sorry. While we are all stuck at home because of the current stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19 and people are looking for some entertainment, please don’t give it to them.
And honestly, I’m tired of seeing it all over my social media feeds. Grow up, people.
Rather than engaging with the other parent publicly, message them privately if you feel that you want to continue the conversation. Let them know how you feel and find a way to come to a solution. If you come to realize that after letting them know how you feel that they simply are looking for a battle, then walk away. Leave your keyboard and block them. It’s that easy.
COVID-19 Has Afforded Us All An Opportunity. What’s Your Next Win?
While it is tragic that COVID-19 has essentially shut down our world, it has also done something miraculously at the same time.
One, it has brought the world together in a way that no government could have ever dreamed of—unity. We are all in the same boat. Forget talks of war, school shootings, and other acts of terror. We are all in our own personal hell of not being able to socialize, go to work, or even walk down the streets to a local vendor or shop.
Two, it has afforded us all an opportunity for self-reflection. Now is the time to look inside ourselves and make changes to our lives.
As I observe the Jewish holiday of Passover, this is an extremely important time, as I am not only reflecting over Jewish history as the Jews made their exodus out of Egypt, having faced plagues of slavery and God’s ten plagues over Egypt—but adding in today’s newest plague that has cost tens of thousands their lives.
The time for change is now. Be part of that change. Help be part of the catalyst for change and serve as a role model for your children and others. Yes, it may go unnoticed, but do you really need a standing ovation for every good deed you do? Sorry, there’s no participation trophies in life.
So take advantage of the COVID-19 era—you have all the time in the world. And it starts with what you and your fingers do on that keyboard of yours.