Irreproachable parenting

June 9, 2008 at 6:50 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I am frequently struck by unease when I hear from the news that a teenager has gone off the rails. That it appears in the news means that the victim’s behaviour has the perfect scapegoat prepackaged with the story.

During my not so distant childhood, in a very distant age, the first two questions that were asked after a child went loopy were as follows:

1. Is it the child’s fault?

2. Is it the parents’ fault?

These questions are now taboo. A “victim” role has been chosen. What is left, the “villain”, must not be filled by the “victim”, for that would render the world in upsetting shades of grey.

I play a morbid game when I read about these stories: if I find the bad parenting, I win.

After telling her mother, Christina “Tina” Meier, about the increasing number of hurtful messages, the two got into an argument over the vulgar language Megan used in response to the messages and the fact that she did not log off when her mother told her to. After the argument, Meier ran upstairs to her room. She was found twenty minutes later, hanging by the neck in a closet. (quotation from Wikipedia)

It was too easy to find, but no-one seems to be able to see it. There are those who seem to question the parents, but notice that they place a point on the map where the victim lies, pick a villain and place another point, and then draw a line between the two. A parent is responsible for severing that dangerous connection.

Am I unreasonable? By grouping the following facts together, am I asking the wrong questions?

1. “Megan’s mother, who monitored her daughter’s online communications, returned home and said she was shocked at the vulgar language her own daughter was sending. She told her daughter how upset she was about it.

Megan ran upstairs, and her father, Ron, tried to tell her everything would be fine. About 20 minutes later, she was found in her bedroom. She died the next day.” (MSNBC)

2. “According to Ronald “Ron” Meier (Meier’s father) and a neighbor who had discussed the hoax with Lori Drew, the last message sent by Evans read: “The world would be a better place without you.” Investigators did not find a record of this message.” (Wikipedia)

3. “Megan’s parents are now separated and plan to divorce.” (MSNBC)

Is it so unreasonable to wonder whether perhaps the Meier girl killed herself because she felt betrayed by her mother? Adults do not seem to remember what it was like to be a teenager desperately wanting both parental approval and autonomy; I’m not sure how, as I can’t seem to forget. It is absurd that Tina Meier chose not to stand behind her child, but to scold her for something so trivial as “vulgar language”.

It’s not important that a parent supports her children, because children need a firm hand, is that right? To a teenager, overwhelmed by attacks from a stranger, hostility from her mother about something so small would be the last straw. If Megan was pushed emotionally to curse at the attacker, she felt cornered and didn’t know what else to do, especially if cursing was verboten in her house. Her mother only saw a house rule broken, and did not pause to consider why. Megan, unable to have support from the person who should support her come what may, could not take it anymore. How dare Tina Meier attack her child?

Maybe running upstairs would have been the end, if her father had not told her that everything would be okay. Everything would not be okay. How could it be okay? Not even her father understood how desperate she was. Cornered, panicky, unable to gain perspective, possibly even to teach her parents a lesson, Megan Meier hung herself.

The paranoid theory continues: why were neither the police nor the FBI able to find the message that apparently drove Megan over the edge? Did it exist? The Meiers divorced. Whether or not Megan’s death was Tina’s fault must have been an issue, for Tina certaintly feels guilty.

If this sounds ridiculous, then look between 1m40 and 2m22 of the following video.

Teenagers, sadly, commit suicide on a daily basis, but only certain deaths are made public knowledge. I shan’t here reflect upon the nature of modern news coverage to support rather than inform public opinion, motivated by profit, suffice to say that the internet is a frightening place for those who do not wish their opinions challenged, or those who wish to protect the pride of a foolish populace.

Wicked internet, what hast thou wrought? Slashdot reports that the United States is considering legislation that will make trolling a punishable offence. The very act of criticism has now been blindfolded and led shaking to the firing squad.

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6 Comments

  1. Mel said,

    You raise a whole set of other issues with this situation then I was ever thinking about.

    Just watch out… you might be surprised at the following of people who think that parents can do no wrong and will say the most horrendous things about you or what should be done to others!

  2. ataxas said,

    While I suspect the reason for Meier’s death is her reaction to both attacks from Lori Drew and her mother’s mistake, all that I am suggesting here is that criticism on the internet not pay the price.

    While her death is unfortunate, legal recourse is not appropriate. Megan Meier, as all teenagers do, overreacted. Her mother should have expected her overreaction and attempted to calm her. Neither Tina Meier nor Lori Drew should expect legal punishment, let alone internet users as a whole.

  3. Andrew said,

    I can’t really find fault with the Meiers, at all. Nothing about the way they handled their daughter’s situation struck me as unusual, unwarranted or deserving of blame. The blame lies squarely on Lori Drew and on Megan Meier herself.

    I was raised with parenting that seems to resemble Tina Meier’s: I was held to higher standards than my mother held the general public to, because she recognized that while she (and I) could do little to control everyone else, we’re easily responsible for our own actions. That’s what Tina Meier’s upset at Megan’s behavior says to me: you can’t control what these people on the internet are saying about you, but you can and should control how you behave.

    That (in a more general sense, of course) is one of the core tenets of being an adult, and one of the most important lessons to learn while growing up, and I don’t think we can fault Tina Meier for attempting to instill that, regardless of whether Megan feeling her mother’s disappointment was what pushed her over the edge.

    As for the proposed legislation: while I agree with the fear that we’re letting the government nanny the internet to death, I have zero objections to the idea of holding adults responsible for bullying children the way Lori Drew did. We have laws protecting children from internet sexual predators; I fail to see why we shouldn’t afford children the same protection from predators of other kinds.

  4. ataxas said,

    Because that’s not what the proposed law is about.

  5. Andrew said,

    Oh, I know; I was speaking hypothetically.

  6. Andrew said,

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