What was once thought a mere schoolyard rite is now considered a serious social ill. But don’t necessarily look to adults for ways to stop bullying.
Photo Credit: http://bullyingpreventionnow.com
Bullying can take many forms. When committed by toddlers and children, it tends to be more physical. Shoving on the playground, throwing sand at someone or calling someone a ‘stupid head’. Children are honest. Too honest. They’ll call another child fat and then continue the taunt for as long as it pleases them. And after reading the ever-increasing news stories about kids committing suicide over bullying, I can’t help but wonder why. When I was a kid, bullying never seemed as prevalent as it is today. Have kids gotten even meaner? Some of these children are as young as ten years old!
I have never been bullied per se, and for that I am lucky. I remember once I puked all over the classroom in third grade. Turns out I had severe pneumonia and missed school for three weeks. When I came back, some stupid little boy decided he’d give me a new name: puke face. Instead of crying about it, I told him the third-grade equivalent of ‘f*ck off’ and that was that. It made me hate him; it didn’t make me hate myself. But this type of bullying is on such a small scale compared to what I read about in the news. I can’t even imagine what the children in these articles go through.
Boys tend to literally push people around. Girls tend to call each other names. As teenagers, girls spread vicious rumours, usually false, about each other until someone breaks down and has to leave school. I can’t speak for men, but as adults, women bullies, in addition to spreading rumours, have enough 'bravery' as to also taunt their victims to their face. I just hope the adult victims of bullying have the power and knowledge to handle it.
Curiously, most bullying behaviour I’ve witnessed is from adults, not kids. Perhaps this is biased seeing as how one would remember more about their life after elementary school, not before. Unfortunately, bullying continues … well, forever. In adulthood bullying tends to be more subtle, but it doesn’t mean it can have the same effect as does the schoolyard bully on a fragile little girl’s psyche. It can be the frenemy whose constant negative comments make you want to smash your head in a wall and second guess everything you ever wear, do or say; your co-worker who always criticizes something you’re wearing that day or your emotionally abusive and possessive boyfriend who keeps you from having a social life. (No, I am not speaking from personal experience in any of those examples, but we all know someone who’s gone through it.)
You would think that as adults we wouldn’t succumb to such childish behaviour, but bullies exist everywhere — at work, online, in your circle of friends and so on. Making fun of someone is probably the most widespread and overlooked form of bullying there is. And that has existed all through our childhood and well into our adult lives. Except for pointing to someone and calling them a ‘fatty’ —although some people aren’t so subtle — we chip away at their sanity with damning faint praise and dirty looks. The most malicious of us get on Facebook and leave comments and post statuses to that effect.
It’s on Facebook where things like this get really out of hand. The person being picked on has no control over who sees what on someone else’s page. Someone could just completely rip them apart and all they can do is watch. What do you do once someone has posted a false, dirty rumour on the Internet for everyone to see? You can be made to feel like shit by a complete stranger! Perhaps that is why I feel that bullying is more widespread today than it was when I was eight or 15; it’s because there are so many more ways to hurt someone now.
We get so upset when we read stories of bullying, and certainly when it leads to suicide. But I would bet that over half the people who get tremendously upset are, or have been, bullies themselves at one point or another. And as bullies ourselves, adults are horrible examples for children.
Perhaps in addition to focusing on preventing bullying and counselling the bullied, maybe we need to focus on those who are doing the harm. What makes a bully? Why do they bully? Is it a sense of insecurity? Probably. I’m pretty sure I know a few adults where this is the case. I wish kids who are picked on could see that those things don’t matter in the adult world. Not in the same way. I recently looked up that third grade asshole on Facebook out of curiosity, and it would appear I turned out a lot better than he did. Stick it out. I know it's easier said than done, but you grow up to be better, smarter and more successful than your tormentors and then what are they left with? You win.
05/04/2012 - 10:59