A few weeks ago I posted about an incident that happened to my daughter, in her first grade classroom. After a good talking to, the girls involved forgot all about her, and according to Alex, they moved on to their next victims - each other! Yep - the "mean girls" are now targeting each other.
Long live teenagers grade-school kids.
Last week in Vancouver, a 15-year-old girl committed suicide by hanging after suffering at the hands of online and schoolyard bullies. Amanda Todd made the mistake of engaging in high-stakes web-chatting and gave in to peer pressure (she showed her boobs online - classic unformed prefrontal cortex mistake), watched as the pic overtook her friends, her school, her town, herSELF - until all that was left was a shell of an otherwise adorable teenager who was, in fact, bullied TO DEATH.
Yesterday I was perusing Facebook when I came across a "friend"'s status update which read - "When did anti-bullying become the new Darfur?"
This person has no children. Maybe if he had a child, he would understand how deeply we feel for our childrens' well-being and even without kids, any person with heart gets the concept of what it might feel like to be a target. We discuss health and fitness TO DEATH, but kids becoming the center of what can become a life or death situiation (on the extreme side), or just being apprehensive about going to school or whatever, should be backburnered?
Comments ensued. Some, like mine, were of the "because it's happening everywhere and it's a huge issue in schools. Kids today are not like they were when we were kids." Others were "How is bullying any different now than when we were kids?"
Uhhh, have you heard about this new trend called computers? Smartphones? Social media? Webcams?
For the most part I just accept ignorance in a very Forrest Gump'ish kind of way - people are like a box of chocolates you never know what yer gonna get but then I think SERIOUSLY? Not when ignorance in adults is what precipitates ignorance in children and truth be told, we all know education is a huge piece of getting a handle on, well almost any issue.
So here it is - according to this website, when it comes to verbal bullying, school bullying is most prevalent with 77 percent of all students being bullied verbally in some way or another including mental bullying or even verbal abuse. These types of bullying can also include spreading rumors, yelling obscenities or other derogatory terms based on an individual's race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. Out of the 77 percent of those bullied, 14 percent have a severe or bad reaction to the abuse, according to recent school bullying statistics. These numbers make up the students that experience poor self-esteem, depression, anxiety about going to school and even suicidal thoughts (bullycide) as a result of being bullied by their peers.
Imagine when this shit goes viral and a kid has peers posting on Facebook, Twitter, whatever-else-you-can-post-on, talking trash and just completely destroying a kid? Imagine if it were you? Imagine if it were your kid?
One of the comments on the facebook status included, "bullying is very bad, no question, but I think it's important at home and at school to raise kids to have thicker skin. It's a tough world."
Truth. But that's like saying if you wear a bullet-proof vest every day, you won't suffer from a gun-shot wound. We can arm our kids all we want, but abuse - in any form - is gonna hurt and for kids and teenagers, for whom perception is everything, it's going to hurt A LOT.
So what can we do? We can do as the poster says and toughen up our kids. But not all kids are built to be tough. We can tell them what I told my kid when the mean girls targeted her for a hot minute - those girls are mad at themselves, not at you. Worst thing you can do is walk away because then the mean, angry people lose their audience. But once we reach the "bullying" level, it's a whole different ballgame. Social media, webcams in bedrooms and our "always-on" society has opened us up and made our children more vulnerable than ever.
Check out the video below for ideas on what to teach our kids, because it truly says it better than I ever could: