There has been a lot of talk recently about bullying both in person and on the web. The latest episode of CSI involved a young pregnant teen who was driven to suicide because she had been taunted on the web. A group of popular cheerleaders were angry at her for “stealing” one of the cheerleader’s boyfriend and created a barrage of hate texts and emails including uploading a video of the victim trying out for the cheerleader team. The cheerleaders were arrested at the end of the show, but in real life things are not that easily tied up.
In a way, I guess I was lucky to be born when I was. There was no Internet and the bullying was not as out of hand as it appears to be now. I was teased a bit for wearing glasses, being a fat kid, and having an unusual name, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. I really feel for these kids who are the targets of other who feel the need to bully. As a parent, you can only tell your child so much to disregard the taunts and ignore the endless barrage of insults thrown your child’s way. Some children are very sensitive and take things so personally especially when they start off with a poor self image.
Some forms of bullying are not that obvious. For example printing an article in a school publication or newspaper about an incident that is embarrassing or incriminating can be just as damaging to a person’s self esteem as physically standing in front of them and taunting them, or sending them hate text messages. However, text messages and daily emails, such as the ones portrayed on the CSI episode are a constant reminder to the person receiving the taunt and hard to ignore.
Bullying is a need to feel empowered. People who bully actually feel as bad about themselves as the person they are taunting. However, they work to establish control and get other people to do it too. Being a ringleader is quite exhilarating. Many of these kids have parents who model aggression and they learn to handle conflicts belligerently. When you add in peer influence others can lose their moral compass and participate even if they have been taught differently in the home. The bullying continues because the bullies are not made accountable for their actions, but things are changing.
However, the bottom line is that we need to teach our young people (as young as possible) about the consequences of their actions from bullying and about healthy relationships. Additionly, we need to encourage everyone to appreciate diversity and accept those who are different. Until we are able to stand up to the fears of others, we will fall to the belief in ourselves.