Friday, October 12, 2012

On Bullying

Amanda Todd. The latest name in suicides as a result of bullying. There will be more. The grief and soul searching will again be poured out for the next victim. The unanswerable questions will again be asked. I am hopeful that some progress has been made and that ultimately we as a society will be able to eliminate the consequences of bullying.

While programs are being launched and anti-bullying propaganda is being perfected, I have yet to hear anything about attempting to find the root cause of the bullying and how to find the bullies before they start using it as an outlet for their own inadequacies.

I may be naive in thinking that bullies are inclined to punish others for something that is happening in their life. They bully someone else not necessarily to hurt them but to gain some modicum of power in their life. If they are allowed to bully without consequence, they up the ante in a continuous pattern seemingly allowing them to gain more power. This upward spiral continues until either the one being bullied is finally able to stand up to the tactics or the Amandas of the world decide that they are not able to cope with the pressures and opt out of life.

There is much talk of education. While that is a good start, the education seems to revolve around the bad that bullying creates and how unfair it is for the ones that are being bullied. "How would YOU feel?" I'm sorry, that does not go far if that does not register.  Bullies are bullies because of something that they lack in their own life. Asking them how it would make them feel may be playing right into how they DO feel. They may well be bullied at home and are attempting to find some way of establishing a dominant position somewhere in the world. The education should be directed toward finding those who have a reason to be a bully and attempt to help them before they use bullying as an outlet for their destructive instincts.

The solutions are being approached from an adult point of view. It may be making the instigators of programs feel good and the programs even may help. The real solution will ultimately lie within the student body though. Education should be directed toward those who are neither bullies nor bullied. The student body knows who the 'problem kids' are. Because bullies do have power, most students are afraid to attack them either physically or by reporting them for fear of being bullied as well. That is where the problem lies. The inability for the majority of the student body to speak up. Education should be focused on developing leadership in schools so that all students have sufficient knowledge and skills to be able to address the problem in a positive way and seek help to deal with the problem before it becomes truly threatening.

Andree Lau says in an article in Huffington Post, "Wanda Cassidy, an education professor at Simon Fraser University, said while the negative comments are shocking, they're not isolated. One of her studies found that seven per cent of young people said they cyber-bullied "for fun."

"There is an element in society (young and old) that enjoys seeing someone in pain. Bullying is a wider social problem -- not just a youth problem," Cassidy told The Huffington Post B.C."

In the same article, Ms Cassidy says that one third of students 11-15 years old have been involved in cyber bullying. Is that a reflection on the students or the parents or our society? I know that I would feel pretty insecure growing up in the society that we have today. It is a lot better in terms of communication with cell phones, computers and social media. Unfortunately, the ease of communication is also very impersonal. It is too easy to have an online relationship that is both shallow yet revealing at the same time.

It never ceases to amaze me when I see teens walking around in groups each with their heads down and thumbs going conversing with someone who isn't there. It is easier to communicate that way than to have a conversation with a person that is less than a meter away. I fear that the communication skills of our youth are part of the problem of bullying. If they do not know how to talk with their friends in person, how are they going to be able to talk about issues that may potentially have a great impact on their lives.

While I think that legislation may do something in terms of punishing those that are caught bullying, I do not believe punishment is what is needed. I think that education is the key; I am just afraid that the education that the authorities are formulating is misdirected and will not generate the results. It is time to think in terms of what drives the perpetrators and deal with those issues.

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