No Scapegoats for Bullies

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.  I am revisiting something I wrote a while back on another one of my sites.  Not surprisingly, the amount of bullying that takes place in schools still strikes a chord with me.  As a teacher of computer literacy, I focus on cyber-bullying, but still take time to point out that face-to-face bullying is the larger issue at hand.

It hits a nerve when I hear people blaming Facebook for bullying.  I experienced/witnessed/(unfortunately) took part in/(and I’m happier to say) stepped in to prevent bullying as a child.  That happened without the internet (yes, I’m that old).  It happened without cell phones.  Bullying is an unfortunate part of our society.  Even worse, it’s a part that is accepted by some and passed off as “boys will be boys” or “girls will be girls” (especially by parents of would-be bullies…because you’d never hear that from the parent of a child that is bullied).

    Here’s the reality.  Bullying is not a rite of passage.  It is a negative behavior.  We know more about how choices affect a person in the short-term and long-term.  Just as we no longer tolerate smoking (both the physical and financial detriments are no longer debatable), bullying needs to end.  Bullying’s more organized and easily identifiable form, hazing, has been targeted much more efficiently.  Schools aggressively punish these groups.  Schools now need to turn that focus on bullies.
“Kids these days…”
    The problem with cyber-bullying is that it can be anonymous, it can happen outside of school, and it can happen with no other witnesses so that there’s no one to step up for the victim if they’re unwilling to do so on their own.  The reality of cyber-bullying:  It’s a product of behavior within our society.  It starts, and largely continues, with face-to-face interactions.  Studies have shown that bullying is still more likely to occur in face-to-face interactions than on anonymous social sites.  Bullying hasn’t changed with the times.  “Gateway” behaviors like the rolling of eyes and under-the-breath comments are still the most frequent signs.
The real kids these days
    Kids are socially active.  Kids are aware of behaviors and their results and have begun to take action themselves.  Whether it’s forming an Anti-Bullying Club (like Waltham High School has done) or organizing an awareness day, kids are taking on leadership roles in promoting positive relationships with each other.  Kids are using the internet to promote positive social change as often or more often than they are using it to commit acts of bullying.
What We Can Do
    This is where both parents and schools need to work together.  Children need to be taught, from a very young age, to form positive relationships and to be tolerant of differences.  That positive message needs to be reinforced throughout a child’s life.  When adults see children, of any age, act in an intolerant way, we need to step in and help promote a more positive behavior.  We also need to encourage children to stand up for themselves as well as for others.  The more children realize that bullying is wrong, that they stand up to bullies (especially if they’re not the victims), the less it will happen.  I also can’t stress enough that we need to positive role models.  If children grow up seeing the adults in their lives interacting in a positive way with people that may be different, they will learn from that.
More Info:

The Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC)

Massachusetts Law About Bullying and Cyberbullying

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