I hear this question all the time: is bullying any worse today than it was thirty years ago? My answer is always the same – bullying is just as bad today as it was in generations past. What is different? The weaponry is far more sophisticated, cutting a wider and deeper swath. For example, when I was kid, someone could start a nasty rumor by jotting down a note and passing it around class. And that would be the end of it. But now, that same rumor could be posted on Facebook, uploaded on YouTube, emailed or IMed to hundreds of recipients or texted to countless cell phones. The impact of the rumor is then far more severe, and can often take on a life of its own.
What’s even more difficult is that teens today have no escape. When I was a student, I knew that when I went home after school, I could get temporary respite from the abuse. With the Internet, that’s no longer true. Kids are now haunted in their homes and constantly held hostage by the hostility of their peers. No wonder bullying-related suicides are on the rise. It seems that many kids simply have no place to go that feels safe.
What’s the good news in all of this? America is finally starting to “get it” and respond appropriately to the problem. When speaking at schools and working with students, teachers and parents to generate awareness, I see evidence every day that gives me hope. I see school administrators who are beginning to respond to the call for action. Politicians across the country are aggressively engaged in passing anti-bullying laws. Services like Social Shield are giving parents more effective tools for protecting their children in cyberspace. Another encouraging sign is the expanding media coverage on bullying issues. This coverage is not only reporting incidents of bullying, but probing for answers to the problem.
Do we still have a long way to go? Of course we do. But the dialogue has begun. Keep in mind that when I was a kid, the term “school bullying” didn’t even exist. It was just “kids being kids,” and many adults believed bullying was simply a rite of passage. Thank goodness that kind of ignorance has been replaced by an outcry to not only understand bullying’s underlying causes, but to find suitable solutions.
I will remain vigilant in my mission – and so must all of you! Report incidents of bullying to your schools. And if you don’t get a response, keep on going up the chain of command until you do. Start with the principal and work your way to the school board and local press if necessary. But don’t give up and know that things are getting better. For every school that is negligent, there are others trying hard to make things right.
For more information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.