You can’t pick up the newspaper or turn on the television these days without hearing some story about a child being bullied.
It’s nothing new, especially on the school grounds, but with the Internet and modern technology, the schoolyard bully is way fiercer than they were even 20 years ago.
The National Center for Educational Statistics reports nearly 1 in 3 students are bullied during the school year (64 percent of children who are bullied don’t even report it). Looks, body shape, race, and gender expression are the top “reasons” for being bullied.
I’ve got to say, these numbers are alarming!
I remember in grade school having a sign that read, “punch me” taped to my back. I walked around maybe 10 minutes before I realized the joke. It seemed so innocent back then — I don’t ever remember being punched. To me, it was just a cruel joke.
Another incident I remember was being called a nerd in high school for being more interested in photography than sports. I never let that bother me either. In fact, looking back, I think it propelled me peruse my passion even more.
These days bullies are even using social media to taunt their victims to death. Cyberbullying, as its called, is a type of bullying that happens electronically. It can be a text message, email or an online post. Some children have reported being taunted on social media sites or had the bullies share embarrassing photos or videos of them online for the world to see. It’s not just the stocky athletic boys picking on the skinny boys either. Girls get in on the action too by spreading rumors to harass their peers or by getting a group of kids to gang up on one or more of their peers. Researchers say girls get away it more because adults are less likely to pick up on their tactics.
Last year a girl jumped to her death after some classmates allegedly bullied her online and posted a message that she should “drink bleach and die.” Two teenagers were arrested on felony charges in that case.
Incidents that were once isolated to the playground, classroom or hallway are now in the palm of the bullies’ hands in the way of smart phones which has made cyberbullying even easier.
Some argue bullying makes children stronger and its all part of “growing up.” The reality is children who are bullied are more likely to be depressed or in some instances suicidal. Show me a child who is being taunted daily, and I’ll show you one who is powerless, depressed, or possibly loosing all interest in school and the world around them. Other warning signs include unexplainable injuries, changes in eating habits, declining grades, and sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations.
Research also shows that many youngsters give up sports because of bullying from the sidelines. Sometimes its teammates, but most often the ferocious behavior comes from coaches, parents, or other adults who are taking the game more seriously than they should. Constructive criticism is acceptable, but negative comments should not be tolerated. They’re children, not professional athletes!
It’s time we as a community stand up to the bullies of all kind. Children shouldn’t have to endure this at any age. Encourage those kids around you to speak to a trusted adult if they’re bullied or see others bullied. It’s proven that more than half of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied. I think schools should also ensure that students who report such acts are protected.
According stopbullying.gov, there are some practical ways that parents, school staff, and caring adults can help children understand bullying and hopefully prevent it:
•Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about their school, and understand their concerns.
• Model how to treat others with kindness and respect
• Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other kids.
• Urge them to help kids who are bullied by showing kindness or getting help.
October is typically designated as National Bullying Prevention Month. It’s going to take more than just a monthly observance to tackle this issue. It’s going to take parents, educators, community leaders, and all of us working together to impart to these youngsters the importance of getting along and working with others. Television, movies, and video games may glorify it, but its time we step up as adults and teach our children otherwise.
Oh by the way – to the guy who called me a nerd for being interested in photography and for being part of the school newspaper, I now support my family with that camera and this column for that matter. Hope you’re doing well. Thanks for encouraging me!