HOW BULLYING HAS CHANGED
When discussing the issue of bullying , it is important to remember that it is not what it used to be. Though many of the techniques and methods of bullying are still there, there are all new devices to use for such maltreatment of others, including technology and cyberbullying. We will discuss cyberbullying in greater depth later, but we will also discuss it in this article, as it has changed the way bullies operate.
THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN BULLIES
There has always been bullies. And there probably always will be. I have made the comment to a friend I work with recently (my superintendent), that bullies just moved from the playground to the office. Bullies are like the strongest of a species, at least in their mind, that formidable force which pushes all the others aside to get at the game they want. If we watch nature, we see bullies there too. Big, snarling dogs who bite and growl at the smaller dogs to get at the food. People are like that too. It would be unrealistic for us to believe as educators, or parents, that we can completely eradicate bullying from the face of the earth.
What we have to do instead is recognize it when we see it, go through the proper channels, and protect ourselves and those we love from being victimized by such predators. We need to call bullying what it is: predatory behavior. This is true, wherever it occurs. Much of the motivation for bullying comes from a lack of self-esteem on the part of the bully, bad coping skills, fear, and other factors.
THE HIGH COST TO THE BULLY
A famous entrepreneur admittedly recently on a national news program that he was a bully and a nightmare type boss, and explained where he thought it came from. When he was 12 years old, his mother was left destitute when his father left her alone to raise 2 kids in the midst of poverty. He said that the image of his mother crying, at the end of her rope, was enough to carry with him far into adulthood. And now, at the age of 58, and a billionaire many times over, he still keeps the “bully techniques” he learned years ago, due to the fear of losing. This is a sad situation and though I do not like this person due to his attitude on a famous TV show, I did feel some empathy toward him, for the things he will lose anyway, such as the love of his daughter, closeness with his family, and true happiness. Here is a man, far more successful than most people could ever dream about being, scared to death of losing his gold. He intimidates and bullies his way through life, runs over his employees, creates fear and intimidation in the hearts of all he knows, just to hang onto his kingdom. But, someday, down the road, alone in some hospital room, he may wonder what battle he was fighting, and may then realize what he gave up to get there.
Stories like this abound. People learn coping mechanisms early in life, and are reinforced by how others react. If we learn early to get what we want from people by using power, that is what we will do. People who learn to get what they need and want using kindness don’t have to resort to this. Life is a learning process. Unfortunately, bullies learn early to control others to get what they want, and they never stop.
I know of another sad story involving a teacher. Though not a bad person, involved in her local civic and church organizations, volunteering for the American Cancer Society, and other good causes, she has had trouble with her relationships all her life. Now 72, she is all alone in a house with few friends, due to the way she has always tried to control each other. I never had her as a teacher, but I knew those who did. She had absolutely no respect from other teachers, students, or others. She yelled and screamed when others didn’t comply, creating an even bigger problem than when the issue arose. Other teachers even opened their doors to let others hear her yell, for entertainment. This was tacky on the part of these other teachers, but it served as an illustration of how badly one can lose control of their emotions.
This lady was probably in the wrong profession. She really didn’t have the patience to be a teacher. Nonetheless, if she had learned some better coping skills, and learned to be less controlling, she may have been happier. She was a bully in the classroom, and she got back resistance. The kids did not like or respect her. Her husband left her. And it’s no wonder. Some people are so controlling of others and situations that they lose all control, making them even more bullying and frustrated. It is sad that some people never get it.
So here we have 2 examples of bullies who carried their bullying tendencies into the work force. They make terrible bosses and friends, rarely are close to anyone, and often are left all alone in the end. Now we will look at how bullying has changed over the years.
HOW IT HAS CHANGED AMONG KIDS
We have seen the result of bullying when it is carried into adulthood. But how has bullying changed? One of the ways it has changed is the things kids say. In the 70’s, boys would say “I’m going to beat you up.” Now in 2013, they say, “I have a gun at home and I’m going to get you.” Kids have so much exposure to weaponry now, and the media involving gun violence, in games and movies, that one way it has changed is the threats have become more serious.
WHEN IT BECOMES THREATENING
Bullies often say things like, “I have explosives at home, so you’d better do what I say!” These things can easily scare a timid kid, and with good reason. Perhaps the person does have access to such an arsenal, and will bring it to school. The bullied person has nightmares wondering what the bully will do next. So they comply with the bully’s wishes in the fear that they will do something to hurt them, or someone else.
Technically, when someone implies they will use violent tools such as guns and explosives on someone else, this is terrorist-like threatening. This is punishable by law and a prison term if someone does this as an adult. A kid is treated differently, but it is still a serious matter. When it is known that a child has been threatened in this way, the school has no choice but to involve law enforcement.
It is important to remember that, as threats get serious (and ANY threat should be taken seriously), that school officials handle it as such. This is why parents of kids who bully should also work with their child, and get them whatever help they need, so that they will never threaten another child this way. They could be looking at serious charges, as there is a move toward trying kids who threaten violence more and more as an adult, which could carry with it a powerful sentence.
HOW 9-11 CHANGED US
Since 9-11, when the terrorists bombed Americans in our homeland, thinking has changed. It is less likely that threats, coercion, or intimidation are going to be treated like “kids just being kids.” Bullying itself is taken far more seriously than it was in the past, and that is another way it has changed. Though some may get away with it for a time, if they continue, the consequences are likely to be quite severe.
CHANGES DUE TO TECHNOLOGY
As mentioned before, we will devote an entire article to this later, as to what happens when bullying turns into criminal behavior, and another one on cyber bullying and the use of technology. Here we will discuss cyber bullying briefly and expound on it later.
CYBERBULLYING: THE NEW TOOL
Cyber bullying is the act of using various forms of technology to bully others online. This can occur through several different means. It can happen on Facebook or other social media, smart phones, through texting, email, and tablets. There are numerous means by which someone can bully others with the use of technology. There are probably even ways that children can think of that adults wouldn’t even have heard of.
One thing is for sure, kids know technology. One of the superintendents I have worked with in the past said that the kids know the technology better than the teachers. While I am an exception to this rule, (since I own my own technology company and design apps for the mobile market, media applications, etc.), this is generally true for others.
This is why it is important that teachers, counselors, and others in the education field continue to seek additional training in the field of technology, so that they will be up to speed in terms of the tools kids have at their fingertips which can serve as tools of bullying. Technology is a wonderful thing. We all use it to aid in our lives and the things we have to do. It makes our lives easier. But there is also no doubt that the level of access to technology we are seeing today is also what makes it so easy for kids to have control of a bullying situation online, and intimidate others through these means.
The answer? Know what your kids are doing at all times. Don’t trust that they are just playing, “Angry Birds” when they use technology. Don’t give them an iPhone until they are old enough to handle it . No matter how tech savvy kids seem to be at an early age, they may not be psychologically ready to handle the things that come with the use of mobile technology. Some kids do not even recognize a virus attempt when they are playing a game. They click on things that say they have won a contest, when really they have just infected their tablet with a virus. This type of thing illustrates that, despite the level of observed expertise on the part of a kid with technology, they may not know or understand what tricks others play to get into their securities on your portable device or computer, and may also access things that are highly inappropriate without meaning to.
THE INFLUENCE OF MEDIA AND MOBILE ACCESS
We will discuss Media Access in more detail later. Suffice it to say for now that cyber bullying is easy to do due to the media access and instant connections to social media, and other types of sites and software, which allow them to be anonymous and do whatever they want in the online environment.
So technology has changed the way bullying is done the most. Parents must be aware of everyone their child is talking to, who their Facebook friends are, and any other connections they have in their online world. Many times accounts can be hacked into, where the hacker can now post inappropriate pictures, or make posts for everyone to see which reflect badly on the victim. This type of cyber bullying is perhaps the most hurtful. Unlike in the real world, where the bully user the threat of physical violence, the cyber bully has a different advantage-the threat of ruining their reputation.
Whoever though of the adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” must have never been bullied. Words CAN hurt, they can ostracize people, they can ruin reputations, and even create feelings of suicide and revenge among the victims. William Shakespeare also said, “What’s in a name? A rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” I have studied Shakespeare and while some may disagree, there is evidence that William Shakespeare meant that statement as more irony than truth. This line comes from the scene in “Romeo and Juliet, ” when Juliet is trying to convince Romeo that even if one of their names was not what it was, it wouldn’t matter, and would not change who they are. Their families were having a feud and they would not allow anyone from the families to marry each other. So Juliet delivers this line, hoping Romeo will not care that her name is a known enemy of his family. Unfortunately, while she was right that the name did not change who they were, there is also a lot of weight of who someone is attached to our names. Now we know Shakespeare was probably referring to one’s reputation, which brings us to the point at hand.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Reputation is how people judge us, how they evaluate us as a business person, a trusted citizen of our communities, and as a partner in love or business. How can we get that back if someone ruins it? Gossip, which is a particularly devastating and damaging technique of the bully, can ruin a person’s good name so completely that they can lose all hope of a good life. This kind of defamation of character IS a civil action in court and many cases have been won due tot he fact that the person lost their job, family, or potential for making money due tot he defamation of the other person. This should serve as a solemn reminder of just how bad bullying can get. Once you ruin someone’s reputation, you may end up paying for it, right our of your pocket.
The law is also starting to see parents are at least partly responsible for what their kids do. When people are hurt in a severe way, either physically or otherwise, they have sometimes been ordered to pay damages for their child’s actions, much in the way the owner of a pet bit someone, and the person lost their leg over the attack, etc. It is the wise parent who combats their child’s tendency to gossip and bully others early in the game, before it has a chance to end up in the courts.
In conclusion, bullying has changed in terms of the severity of threats, the technology methods used to bully, and because of such tragic events such as “9-11” and others in our nation’s history. Such events have caused us to have to rethink everything, and have questioned just how secure we are, and have led to a need to take every single threat seriously.
Bullying can quickly lead to either a civil or a criminal action, and when it does, it puts the bully in serious legal circumstances. Even hitting someone in the face is assault, though it is often not treated this way with under aged kids. But, the older they get, the more serious it becomes, and the consequences may be severe down the road.
WHAT TO DO
Parents should be empowered by the fact that there are resources to turn to in times of trouble. This website, for one, is a great resource to help you come up with ways to teach your children not to bully, to get help for them when needed, and to also protect your child from becoming a victim of bullying.
The way that bullying has changed over recent years, but bullying is still what it is, in whatever form it comes. We can fight it by reporting incidents as soon as they occur, having parent meetings with school personnel, joining advocacy groups, attending seminars on the subject and more.
The first step is knowing what we are up against. Learn the tricks bullies use to get to your child, if they have been a victim. And for parents of kids who bully, connect to the resources you need to help your child to unlearn this unhealthy, unproductive way of dealing with life. You want them to be a happy, secure, successful individual with friends, and good memories. It has to start when they are young, before negative habits are so set in stone that it is harder to reverse.
Talk to your kids regularly about bullies and tell them that such behavior will not be tolerated, whether they are a victim or a bully. We may not be able to stop bullying across the planet, but if we work together, we can combat the problem within our corner of the world, and make that corner a better place to be.