October has been deemed National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and is meant to show everyone how harmful bullying can be. Our society’s views has changed dramatically as declaring a whole month devoted publicaly to this topic would never have been considered decades ago.
Bullying, in some form, has been around for a very long time. It is no longer being associated to happening only with children as cases of work place bullying are reaching public attention. Nevertheless, the primary focus is on our young as they are the most impressionable and studies has shown that there is a good chance for a bully at an young age will have a criminal record when they get older. With more and more cases of bullying being reported, can we find a way to stop it in today’s society?
Before attempting to answer the question, it is important to look at what has changed in society that has caused cases of bullying to escalate over the years; even decades. Bullying, especially in schools, has been going on for many years. Stories regarding bullying have been told by parents; even grandparents to show how long kids have been doing this to each other. What has changed is tolerance and technology to the point that incidents of bullying are no longer kept behind “closed doors.” Both go hand-in-hand because the more people see on the news and on the internet how frequently this is going on, society’s tolerance of accepting this as a part of growing up is thinning.
Different people, however, have their own way of dealing with bullying that others would totally disagree. In an article on CNN called “When kids play across gender lines,” one comment suggests if one is not willing to conform in a community, the individual should leave and find one that is more acceptable. “Communities demand relative conformity, it is what makes them communal. Nonconformity, therefore, naturally results in exclusion. Children are callous in this respect, and if parents wish to ensure their children find acceptance, then find them a suitable community. As for self-expression, all humans are welcome to express themselves, but I reserve for myself the right to point and laugh, as should you too.”
Others feel if a child is being confronted by an individual bully, the answer is to physically fight back. In a magazine article that talked about tips for ending bullying, an example was cited where the person stopped his bully by fighting back physically. “I went to Catholic school. Got bullied. Told Dad. He said, knock him in the mouth. He will leave you alone. Next day I got bullied. Punched Billy in the mouth. End of story. We are best friends today and I haven’t been bullied since. Write letters, document facts? Make school aware? Whaaaat? How political we have been? What a shame. One slap can change things for sure!” Do people have the right to ridicule someone because there different? Does a physical response to a bully resolve the situation in all cases?
The answer is no because bullying has evolved where a physical solution does not always work. Having more than one bully and fighting back physically most likely will not work if the individual is being confronted my multiple bullies. The other reason is how do you fight back physically when the person(s) who are bullying you is doing the attacking online? This is the downside of advancement in technology as the person can bully an individual without being there physically.
Cases of online bullying are increasing to the point where children, not knowing how to resolve the problem, feel their only way out is through suicide. A priest recently in Ireland told mourners for 13-year-old Erin Gallagher that the government needs to find ways to regulate social media websites to help prevent more suicides as a result of cyber bullying.
Earlier in October, Canadian teen Amanda Todd posted a video on YouTube detailing her history of being bullied and finally killed herself to escape it. In looking close to home, 15-year-old Felicia Garcia, a New York student, threw herself in front of a train in October. Though it seems her case did not refer to online bullying, striking her bully was not a favorable option as she was being taunted by multiple football players from her high school.
So, is there anything that can be done to stop bullying beside a physical response? One thing for sure is it needs to be addressed and stopped at an early age to make sure one act doesn’t become repetitive. When that happens, society will most likely pay for it literally as there is a good chance a repetitive bully will end up in jail.
According to Michelle Borba, an author of several parenting books that includes Building Moral Intelligence, she says that, “A repeat bully by age 8 has a one-in-four chance of having a criminal record by age 26.” Also, common sense will tell you that it is easier to try and teach tolerance and social acceptance of others to an eight-year-old than someone who is 18.
Still, some who may feel this way say that those advocating this are going to extremes with their solutions. One being that certain classic cartoons should not be shown to younger impressionable children. “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” has been suggested to be retired from letting this generation of young viewers seeing it. The constant abuse Charlie Brown receives would be sending the wrong message. Another classic character is Rudolph because of the treatment he receives at the North Pole. Writer George Giuliani feels that “the whole community at the North Pole is into exclusion, not inclusion.” He also said in an interview with ABC News “What a terrible message to send to children.”
Obviously, many people who want to address the problem of bullying have their own ideas on how to resolve it. One big problem is that with many of the solutions out there, not one specifically deals with the different forms bullying can take. One thing that is important would be keeping open the lines of communication between the child being bullied and someone he/she can talk to. Keeping it bottled up will only make things worse and can ultimately lead to suicide. With the different forms it can take on, how can bullying be stopped in today’s society? What do you think?
Demi Lovato PSA – National Bullying Prevention Week.
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