On the Issue of Bullying

As the nation marches on towards the focus of attempting to change those things within society which would be quite frankly impossible, one of those worth discussing is the issue of bullying. Let’s just admit it, we have all done it, been a victim to it, and know all well what the effects are from being on both sides of the table. Most of us now find ourselves hopefully as grown and mature adults watching our children wander down the same paths we did with this and similar life experiences. Our natural instinct as a parent is to help sway our children from the hurtful things we experienced, to coddle them as so to speak and shield them from such things. What good is this doing to our children? We all know the world, and society has bad, as well as good. Some may even argue that it has more bad than good but none the less, we could all agree for the sake of argument that there is a good chance each week, someone will say or do something which is designated to be hurtful towards us even as adults be it by friends, neighbors, church members, family, or co-workers. Our children, at some point, will have to embrace adulthood and enter into the world. We are expected as parents to raise our children to be respectable, law abiding, successful citizens who contribute and give back to society yes? So why would preparing our children with the confidence and ability to repel “bullying” not be a part of their upbringing?

Growing up in the 80s and 90s we didn’t have the technological advancements our youth unfortunately have access to today. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and there certainly were no cell phones. There was the US Postal Service, a land line, and if you could manage to not get caught you could write notes at school and pass them around. Television consisted of shows such as The Cosby Show, Home Improvement, Full House and other family based educationally comedic shows none of which portrayed the images modern television shows do today. Those shows addressed everyday issues from divorce, break-ups, bullying, school and otherwise. In fact, much of my parenting abilities came from the TV show dads I watched as a child, but today is much different. It’s easy for some to cave and allow their children to open a Facebook account even though the user agreement clearly states one must be 18 to open and maintain an account and for whatever the parents excuse is ignores this and goes on to allow the child access.It’s nothing to be sitting at a restaurant and observe multiple families sitting at various tables and every child at the table from ages 7+ have a cell phone in their hand completely disengaged from the world texting a friend, trolling through Facebook, or browsing the web completely unfiltered and subject to stumble upon God knows what or God forbid taking multiple “selfies” while at the table.  

I say all that to say this. Growing up, when one person chose to pick on you it usually consisted of them and maybe one or two friends who happened to be in the same vicinity and only lasted until classes changed, or school let out for the day. We had time to unwind, shake it off and move forward. With technology, those one or two people who intend to do harm, can mass communicate that hate through social media or by cell phone instantly reaching an entire class, grade or school population of which the social effects are extremely detrimental to the intended victim. There are no class bells to separate those individuals from the victim anymore, and the bullying can now carry on all day and night until something gives, either the bully gets bored and finds another target, or at worst case, the victim takes their own life. 

It is unfortunate to see children take their life over something as ignorant as bullying. It is even more unfortunate to know that the child was afforded every opportunity to have a social media site, a cell phone or other means of communication much above the required maturity level for an adolescent child. It really hits home to think that perhaps the parents could have in some way played an integral role in the outcome of the situation. Children simply do not have the confidence, nor the maturity to handle the consequences of modern technology and this could never be argued to any magnitude which would sway my opinion from its current position on the issue. Sure some would say they spoke with the affected child, tried to calm them, but were any efforts made to restrict or terminate the source of the harm? Was Facebook shutdown, cell phone removed? Probably not if I had to guess and I do ask why the hell not? 

The resolution to the problem at hand lies within the home, and the responsibility we owe it to our children to instill the confidence needed to handle the different forms of bullying they will encounter both as children, and adults. That confidence will come from the teachings we provide to those children. Bad people do, and always will exist. It will never change and I believe we can all agree on this. Our children must understand and be taught this throughout their childhood, but as in adulthood, confidence and integrity will always allow us to deflect bullying and move forward as better individuals. Keep your children off of social media, if a cell phone must be provided do so with great caution and care. Monitor it daily, set strict usage guidelines, and never be afraid to take it away in the event those guidelines are broken. Parents have a responsibility to protect (not shield and yes there is a difference) children from the harmful things of the world. Let them fall down and experience hurt, let them work through most social problems with friends with no interference, but never allow them the unrestricted freedom to become vulnerable to consistent and hateful attacks from those looking to inflict serious mental or physical harm. In short, we must be willing to be a parent and not a friend to our children.  We must be willing to set aside our “want” for our children s approval to remove them from a potentially dangerous situation even if it means cutting off cell phones, saying no to their demands to go to a school dance, local social gathering or other until whatever situation may be occurring passes. They may hate you for it at the time, but they will thank  you for it down the road or forget about it altogether. 

Some may say I am blaming the parents with my remarks above, and I will not argue that statement. In most of the cases of teen suicide, investigations show proof of harassment through social media, internet, and cell phone bullying. In almost every case, not one parent took the step to remove the methods by which those bullies choose to communicate their hateful remarks from the victim. So I ask you, should the parents assume some responsibility here? The answer should be a resounding yes. Irregardless of how you view my argument, we can all agree that until the child reaches adulthood, and graduates high school, we as parents are responsible for our children. 

13-Feb-2014

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