Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bulllying, Tecnology and the Culture of Cruelty

Bullying is getting a lot of press these days, and rightly so. There are almost weekly reports of a young person somewhere in the USA that couldn't take the abuse any longer so they chose to end the pain one way or another. There have been suicides, and shootings all around bullies. The interesting thing in this is the victim suffers, and sometimes others suffer because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rarely is the bully the one that feels the consequences so intimately. Schools are expected to teach our kids. That means teach them socially as well as academically. With the introduction of things like, 4G cell phones with Internet access and Blue tooth "beaming" photos, there is no teacher that can keep up with the  thousands of Megabytes of information being  sent and received. A single nasty comment on a Face book page goes viral and the victim suddenly has what seems like thousands of people jumping on to join in the fun of destroying someones life. Teasing has been around forever it seems and part of it is how kids learn what is ok and what is hurtful. Think about it. How often are snide or derogatory comments made about  people just in general conversation? Their hair, their makeup. their clothes, their shoes, their  skin, braces. their weight. It never ends. We are hyper critical as a society. Add to that the  needing to belong to a group of peers in a group of kids and you have a perfect storm. What is missing in this little scenario is the victim's responsibility in the bullying relationship. I know. I can hear you guys freaking out because I am blaming the victim. No so! I am saying the victim has to participate in this exchange, otherwise, there is no power and no pay off. If the intended victim walks away, or blocks the senders messages from their device....then does the bully continue? What would be the point?  Kids bully for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they bully unintentionally. They don't understand the impact of their words or actions may have on others. Kids are pretty self focused. They rarely are aware of the power they have to effect their friends or peers. Other times, they are trying out what works in their group of friends.. kind of a game of how to win friends and influence people. Lastly, kids who have been bullied, either at home or at school, will try to bully someone else to release their frustration and  to establish power. Kids in groups are the worst. The group actually encourages the bully to continued. The bully now has an audience, admireres, people who are on their side. Even if there are kids that just stand and watch, they are perceived as being involved from the victim's perspective.
So what do we do about it? It isn't going away. We can't take cell phones from all the kids, or kick them all off the net. What we can do is teach them what it measn to be a friend. What it means to give respect to others not becuase of what they look like or how pretty they are. Respect should be given to people. There is no need to earn it. If you believe in the unique talents of each person, you must respect that spark. Teach kids what to do if they see someone being bullied. They can choose to step in and stop the abuse. They can tell an adult if they need help to stop the abuse. They can befriend the target of the bully, so they are not an outcast. There are so many things parents can do to teach their kids how to be social and get ahead without stepping on bodies of those they have destroyed either socially or emotionally.

Kids who bully, grow up to be bullies in the boardrooms and in their own homes. Bullying behavior that persists after the early teens, will likely blossom into a character disorder or personality disorder in later life. These are the people who rage on the roadway and end up abusing their families.

Learn all you can about bullying. It is going to be a job just to stay ahead of the new ways kids can needle each other. Start a group at school to address bullying on campus.

Stand up for  your friends guys.  We are in this together afterall, no one gets out alive.

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