There was a time when school bullying essentially involved one child being cornered or ganged up on by a bigger child or a group of kids. This would involve taunts, some pushing and shoving, and insults. Just about every boy went through it unless he was the size of a house, which is probably why bulling was treated as a rite of passage for decades. Girls had their own version of bullying as well, but it was mainly focused on clothes and appearance and whether a person was in the right group or not. Eventually, kids would grow out of these environments, become bigger and smarter, and the bullying would fade away.
Today, school bullying is far more pervasive and damaging to children, especially at the age when it can have the most negative effects: pre-teen and teenager years. Thanks to the Internet and social media, bullying can be far more than just the physical shoving and taunts. Now it has expanded into an entire new world of mental torture and humiliation of a targeted child, many times by the very people whom the child thought were close friends. Further, while old-style bullying was momentary and limited to just the people involved at the moment, today’s activities can last forever on the Internet to be re-read and replayed again and again and again.
Plenty of discussion can be had with regards to the long term effects of bullying and how it can damage a person’s self-confidence, ability to function in groups, and personal perspective. However, the most damaging and serious effect of today’s bullying is how often it is leading to something far worse, a child believing he or she has no choice but to commit suicide or to attack others in a suicide attack to stop the bullying.
The attack of Colorado’s Columbine High School in April 1999 has been probably the most devastating instance of teenagers assumed to be bullied at school who then came back and killed multiple students. 10 years after the event, it seems that the two involved never were bullied. However, hundreds of kids that looked like these murderers in terms of clothing were bullied after the fact. The event also created a number of copycat instances were kids who were bullied brought a weapon to school to have the same effect on those causing them harm.
Suicide is another devastating but real effect of bullying. A number of students in both the U.S. and Canada have been driven to suicide by mental torture caused by repeat online bullying as well as in-school. The act of suicide has been a problem for years in the teenage population, amounting to as many as 4,600 deaths annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control or CDC. Bullying in recent years has become a significant contributor to those statistics. The students may have suffered for months and years before finally reaching a point of desperation to make the mental pain stop. Schools and legal jurisdictions are just now starting to see cases where bullying students are being held responsible in the criminal process, but in almost every case the victim is already dead.
Beneath these extreme issues above, there is all the other damage from bullying that doesn’t make the news headlines but still affects victims and perpetrators for their lives going forward. It often has a significant influence on how people behave as adults with each other in the workplace and in society.
Despite what seems to be a growing problem that is out of control, there are effective ways to stop modern bullying. Schools systems and communities that have taken integrated approaches to the issues are seeing results, both in a reduction in complaints as well as identified bullying activity. These methods of reduction include:
- Making it clear to all students that identified and confirmed bullying will not be tolerated and will result in severe sanctions for the student responsible.
- Providing the means for bullied students to find protection from attacks.
- Incorporating parents of both bullied children as well as kids who are bullies in the solution process since many of the issue in child behavior often come from elements in the home.
- Educating and providing ongoing reminders to parents and students that bullying needs to be stopped in its tracks at early signals rather than being ignored.
- Convincing students to stand up and disapprove of bullying among each other rather than being silent or ignoring the act.
- Providing ongoing corrective training for children identified as bullies to ensure they don’t fall back to old habit again.
- Monitoring Internet activities of students and training parents on how to monitor their kids’ behavior online at home.
- Providing a means for students and children who need help to know that suicide is not an answer and a live resource is available to reach out and talk to first.
School bullying unfortunately is not going go away, despite some of the best efforts to stop it. It seems to be ingrained in our culture as an offshot of competition and favoritism. However, like weeds in a garden, it can be pulled and eradicated regularly to keep the problem in check. However, that requires everyone’s attention and diligence.
Spread the word about Modern Age School Bullying!