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Parents, pols need to look in the mirror

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By Ray Hanania

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A bipartisan panel of Democrat and Republicans members of the U.S. Senate held a public hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 31, in which they accused the owners of social media platforms for not doing enough to prevent cyberbullying of children.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee found common ground to identify cyberbullying as a growing problem, and proceeded to bully the owners of Facebook, X, TikTok, Snapchat and other social media platforms.

The hearing was chaired by U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, a liberal Democrat from Illinois. In the audience were parents of young teens who committed suicide, including a family from Illinois whose 15-year-old son took his life on Jan. 13, 2022.

RayHanania

Ray Hanania

Among those forced to sit through the committees own political bullying were META (Facebook) owner Mark Zuckerberg, X CEO Linda Yaccarino, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew and Discord CEO Jason Citron.

Committee members, including Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley, Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn, and South Carolina Republican Sen. ​​Lindsey Graham, were all respectful to the families who lost children and were invited to attend the hearing.

But they were disrespectful and bullying to the owners of the social media companies, pandering to a stereotype that plays well politically but misses the real issue.

The hearing was a pathetic display of politicians exploiting a painful issue for their own selfish political benefits, an example of the irresponsible leadership and hypocrisy that corrupts America’s political system.

For Durbin and his non-partisan colleagues, it is “politically safe” to beat up on the social media companies. It panders to a dyslexic public attitude on social media in which is loved and hated. Social media has good and bad aspects, the bad being an inordinate presence of sexual content and political extremism that often crosses the line.

Durbin asserted, “Sextortion, bullying, harassment are only a few of the threats our children face when scrolling online. And platforms have near total immunity from being held legally accountable for their role in these harms. Congress must protect our children.”

But politicians like Durbin and Graham don’t want to anger voters by telling them that truth. Instead, they want to console the parents (voters) and make it look like they are doing something, when they are not.

That’s why the Senate Committee focused on the easy aspect of the cyberbullying problem, blaming social media rather than advocating for substantive change including holding parents responsible, too. Parents are the frontline in the fight to stop cyberbullying of their children. When parents are uninvolved, the problem worsens. But politicians are afraid to hold parents responsible for failing to do their jobs.

This is a new trend in America; parents failing to be responsible for the actions of their young children. I am talking about children under the age of 18 and even younger.

How many times have we seen young teenagers on the street in the middle of the night with guns, knives and other weapons engaging in street gang activity only to be confronted by police? When something goes wrong, as it often does, it’s easier to blame police than to tell the truth and hold parents responsible.

What was 13-year-old Adam Toledo of Chicago doing out on the street in the middle of the night, carrying a loaded gun for a gangbanger who was involved in a crime? Toledo was shot and killed when he fled from a Chicago police officer. The world blamed the police officer, but not Toledo’s parents or relatives.

A 17-year-old teen carrying a loaded semi-automatic weapon is stopped in Oak Lawn. When the teen refuses to surrender the dangerous weapon, police beat him to force him to release the gun.

Parents and activists blamed the police, calling it racism. Two years later, that now 19-year-old is arrested after being charged in the brutal and vicious beating of someone at an Orland Park health club.

Pandering politicians and failed parents don’t want to ask why their children are driving in cars with loaded semi-automatic weapons because it reflects their failure.

The Senate Committee didn’t address the responsibility parents have to know where their children are at and what their children are doing.

Some parents only get involved when it is too late and blame everyone except themselves.

Politicians like Durbin and Graham are more than happy to accommodate them because it’s easy politics to comfort parents and bully the social media CEOs. It gets them votes.

The failed leadership of Durbin, Graham and Hawley is as much the problem as failed parenting.

Ray Hanania is a former Chicago City Hall reporter and award-winning columnist. Visit hanania.com for more opinion.

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