Saturday, August 20, 2011
Bullying: The New Teen Terrorism
Bullying has become a crisis, not only in the United States, but in many countries throughout the world. It is the most common form of violence in our society. It has no boundaries and as many as one in every three students in the U.S. report being harassed. Bullying is out of control and the cycles of violence will not be broken until we not only intervene, but also build communities of compassion and caring cultures. In a free society that boasts of free speech, it is difficult in this age of technology for parents to guard and control what is programmed into a child's mind. The cyber-network is active 24/7 and is not concerned about a child's best interest.
With 3/4 of all kids reporting they have been victims of bullying and the media considering it a current event, it continues to be a primary concern in our schools and in our society. With the suicide of 15 year old Phoebe Prince and 11 year old Carl Walker-Hoover, both of Massachusetts, that state is taking congressional action. Finally bullying is receiving the attention it is deserves. While our teachers are seeking answers to the problem, unfortunately there are no quick fixes for it requires a complete cultural correction.
Bullying is about "garbage in - garbage out." It is not simply a behavioral disorder, but a reflection of a society that has embraced violence as witnessed in the movies our children watch and the so-called music with a pounding repetitive beat that hypnotizes young, open minds with lyrics that might be better termed as emotional garbage.
If we continue to contaminate young hearts and minds with toxic suggestions that encourage aggression and personal violations, bullying will become the new cultural norm and our children's safety and security will remain at risk. If our students' safety is continually threatened, how can they possibly learn, trust their environment or be productive?
Once minds are desensitized and people are perceived as objects of personal satisfaction and sensationalism, the bully becomes addicted to his or her heightened power that intimidating others provides. It is an instinctual "kick" for the bully to victimize others who become prey to their personal perversions. Unfortunately, this perpetual state of powerlessness imposed upon the victim has too often made suicide a solution to the problem and the pain.
Obviously things will not change until it is "cool" to be compassionate, considerate and respectful of others. We need heroes who are honorable and show r-e-s-p-e-c-t Aretha Franklin style. The Golden Rule has been tarnished, but if children learn empathy in their earlier years, bullying and aggressive behaviors will be replaced with a spirit of cooperation as friendships and relationships regain their value in our social system.
When young children are exposed to violence on TV, the internet, video games, and the lyrics in so-called music, vulnerable minds become desensitized. Little things make a big difference in the minds of little ones.
Garbage In - Garbage Out
Violence unfortunately is often woven into many television commercials, the lyrics of teen music, video games and many TV programs. Little children have open minds that quickly become desensitized for emotional self-defense. Kids see people rewarded with money and fame for humiliating others. Simon Cowell of American Idol humiliated young people who were trying their best and the world joined him with their laughter, making mockery entertainment at the expense of others. Is this really what we want to be teaching our children?
This is a direct attack on a real person in front of thousands as opposed to the slap stick humor in The Three Stooges where the context is not a reality show. It is not funny to hurt someone or derive pleasure by inflicting pain on others. Even our cartoons are programming young minds to find humor in hurting others. It becomes a stimulant that is addictive and we tend to want more and need more to get our fix. Somehow the compassion of Mother Teresa never brings in the larger audiences as it once did. I fear The Love Story would not be a hit today as it was back in the sixties.
Who Needs to Change
The bully and the victim both need help. The bully needs to learn to relate to others without abusing power. His need for power and energies must be channeled into constructive activities such as sports, music or a strong leadership role. Those bullied need to develop inner strength, confidence and some personal skills to better deal with the problem. The bully often does not know how to relate to others and fails to understand the feelings of those he intimidates. He needs to be monitored and taught to communicate properly.
The book Take Action Against Bullying states, "Unless new behaviors are learned and adopted, bullies continue to bully throughout their lifetime. They bully their mates, their children, and possibly their underlings in their place of business." The bystander needs to become a witness and accept responsibility for her part in prevention and intervention. We need to make it safe for bystanders to get involved and get help. Telling is getting someone out of trouble, whereas tattling is getting someone into trouble. Reporting is not snitching!
Change requires greater parental involvement with laws making parents more legally responsible for their children's behavior. Schools simply can't be expected to do it all. While they need to be involved, their job is to provide education. A parent's job is to develop strong character and solid role modeling. Although the two boys who killed thirteen people at Columbine High School seemed to come from good homes, I think we all questioned how their parents could be so unaware of the ammunition found right there in the boys' bedrooms. Parents must stay in touch with their children. They must observe, question, discuss and keep the lines of communications open. Early detection is crucial and the best place to do so is in the home.
Edie Raether, known as the "Bully Buster," is an international speaker, parenting coach, family therapist and author of Stop Bullying Now. Visit Edie at www.stopbullyingwithedie.com or contact her at email@example.com
- (704) 658-8997.
Edie Raether, MS, CSP
Edie Raether Enterprises and Wings for Wishes Institute