Many years ago, I was one of those kids. The short, fat, quiet kid whose clothes weren’t cool. I garnered the attention of a group of kids that would be best described as bullies. I even had kids that were losers in the eyes of the bullies picking on me. I also had a temper and, when angered, I’d chase after them. Being fat and short, I was also not very fast. The bullies would get away and I’d be crying and upset.
Fortunately, the bullying peaked in the earlier grades. It still continued, but I learned to ignore their taunts and laughter. When I say “ignore”, I don’t mean that I ignored the meanings of their words. I just didn’t react. The words still hurt and if it had kept going into my high school days, there might have been two outcomes; killing the bullies or death.
Luckily for me, I discovered a solution in grade eight. I fought back. No, not with fists. With words.
Sure it was just me telling the kid to “f**k off”, but I did it in class, loudly. The result, since I was a good student with no record of being bad, a slap on the wrist and a two-day “expulsion” that wasn’t on my record. In other words, for fighting back, I got a two-day holiday. I got a thumbs up from my sister who came to pick me up, and although my Mom never said it, I’m sure she was happy that I stood up for myself. At school, I became a minor celebrity, and, most importantly, I wasn’t bothered anymore.
Thing was, even the kids that bullied me weren’t bad kids. After my outburst, they either realized how their taunts were bothering me, or once I fought back, I wasn’t an attractive target anymore.
Skip ahead 20+ years and it seems things have changed drastically when it comes to bullies.
Technology has become a big part. Kids don’t just have to bully kids at school, they can do it on Facebook, via emails and text messages. Bullying can become a 24/7 operation. I can’t imagine how I would have dealt with it if I were a short, fat kid today. Bullies could tease me at school, on the bus, at home when I’m online, or sending messages to me and everyone. There’s be no respite from the verbal abuse.
But it isn’t just the technology. It’s also the kids.
Today, kids get away with murder, and they know it! The justice system is woefully weak when it comes to punishing kids and teens. Just look at some recent news stories. A teen prostitute ring in Ottawa, controlled by two fifteen-year-old girls and a seventeen year-old girl. Kids caught teasing a bus driver to tears, then the video is posted on YouTube. Kids killing their parent because they were grounded from playing their video game system. If such similar things happened 20 years ago, we never heard about them. But I doubt such behavior happened back then. So why is it happening now?
Many will blame the media, and it has its part to play. Today, kids don’t see questionable behavior on TV or in the movies, they see it online. One kid does something bad. Soon, more copy it, and in time, there are hundreds of similar videos of kids doing something stupid or bad.
It doesn’t help when some moron has a website specifically to show, say, the brutal murder and dismemberment of some university student. Even when the victim is identified and the terrible crime is confirmed, he refuses to remove the for some bullshit reason of showing the darker side of humanity.
Maybe it’s that kind of mentality that spurs kids to become bullies. The owner of the website feels entitled to show and do whatever he wants, regardless of the morality of his act. Maybe that’s why kids become bullies.
It seems the biggest crime perpetrated by society in general is entitlement. This isn’t about basic human rights, which we all deserve. This is about people doing whatever they want, regardless of the consequences to others. It can range for seemingly harmless crap, like talking on your cell phone in a movie theater, to freaking out and yelling at a parking enforcement officer over a $26 fine. But, it can become something more terrifying. Road rage is a perfect example. I have been angry at drivers, but becoming enraged at someone who might have accidentally cut you off in traffic, then following them to their house to confront them? Uncalled for, and utterly ridiculous.
Yet, we hear more and more about people doing such things. They act out, and, more often than not, over-react to a situation. It usually appears as a little blurb on the news, or a tiny paragraph in the paper. But no one talks about where all this pent-up emotion comes from, or why people do such things. It’s entitlement.
When parents do such things, guess who’s watching them? Their kids.
These days, more often than not, both parents have to work. This gives kids a lot of free time, by themselves, to do whatever they want to keep themselves occupied. Those kids and teens who aren’t blessed with a streak of individuality early on, will glom to whoever and whatever activity that takes them out of their isolation and boredom. All a bored group of kids need is one person to take the leader role and do something to illicit a reaction. The others will follow like sheep, even if a part of them knows it’s wrong.
That is where bullying starts. That is why bullying has become even more of a danger today. Kids and teens who might otherwise be decent, good kids, get caught up with the wrong person, or in a wrong group, or just don’t have a strong sense of compassion for others, end up saying or doing terrible things. Some may never truly understand what they’ve done, until it’s too late. Even then, some will just not care because their moral compass is broken. Many will lie, or blame others.
In truth, we all are to blame. Any time we don’t talk to our kids about such things, we are failing our future. When we lack compassion, respect, and objectivity towards others in our daily dealings, we are failing our future.
If bullying is to ever end, we not only have to help our kids, but help ourselves. We have to lead by example. The whole “do-as-I-say” shtick is bullshit. We have to make an example of what is morally correct, regardless of religion or belief system. We have to deal with others in a respectful, compassionate manner, or use the old “treat-others-like-I-would-like-to-be-treated” mentality. It’s not just the parent’s responsibility, it’s everyone responsibility.
Bullies are bullies for a reason. If we eliminate the reason, if we show them others have gone through whatever they are going through, if we show them they aren’t alone, then there’s a chance for change.
Otherwise, bullying will continue. Good kids will suffer. Some even die.
That is a crime we all have to pay.