As happens quite often with this little blog I started, stories come back to me at the strangest times. I was doing some research on cyberbullying issues and it struck me that, by definition, cyberbullying started back in my day with the telephone.
I recall just about 6th or 7th grade that the telephone became a central component to my teen communication. This was well before the advent of email, IM, and the cell phone. This was the good ole’ hard plugged telephone in the house. My friends would call and we’d talk for hours on the telephone. We only had one line and no way to leave a message when someone was on the phone, so this usually did not please my parents very much.
Back around 5th or 6th grade I became a latch key kid, having to come home by myself while both my parents worked. This seemed OK to me, because I got to watch TV most of the afternoon. One day, I recall, the phone rang and I picked it up and said “Hello”.
Heavy breathing was all I heard on the other end of the phone. I said “hello” again and then “again”. Just more heavy breathing. Then ‘CLICK’ and the phone hung up. Admittedly, this was not all that untypical of a prank call. I didn’t sweat it too much, but then the phone rang again. Heavy breathing. Hung up. Then the phone rang again. Heavy breathing. Hung up. Then again, this time, heavy breathing and someone said with a low voice “you are dead”. Then they hung up.
All by myself in the house, I was scared. No doubt. That was the end for that day, but then it would happen again. Sometimes the things said would be more drawn out. Sometimes just heavy breathing. Given the fact that it was anonymous and using technology to bully, this, to me, is the original cyberbullying. I knew it was someone who knew me, but would never know who did it. It was scary and every time the phone rang for the next several years, I hoped and prayed it wasn’t another one of these calls.
I can’t say they happened that often. But when it started, it would go on for a week or so. Now, kids use computers, set up fake identities and bully. Most kids don’t even know it’s happening to them until much later and after they have disclosed person information. It’s hard enough growing up, no doubt. Living in fear from anonymous bullies that you can’t even face is even tougher.