By Michelle Sacks
Bullying seems like such a watered-down term. Its overuse is deflating the efficacy. Cases can easily be ignored due to inappropriate use of the term.
Surprisingly, the term was first used as a term of endearment such as sweetheart. The word then morphed to a term used for men and meant you were a good friend. Afterwards pimp and now antagonist or aggressor define bully. If you look up the word currently, as an adjective it is still used positively and favorably however, as a noun and/or verb it is the quite the opposite.
Bullying is not being rude or mean, it is also not conflict. Conflict does not intend to cause harm the way bullying does. Conflict can be a learning opportunity and we can all use conflict resolution skills.
Let us talk about bullying before the internet. If you were having issues with someone at school then your home was a common safe haven since your tormentors did not live in the same house and if you were lucky, they did not live on your street and even luckier if they did not live in your neighborhood. Therefore, you had a mental break from the abuse and harassment. Then along came the internet and kids lost their haven. Kids now days do not have a mental break, they are being victimized in person and online. Top that with the lack of rational thinking i.e. executive functioning and we have a sometimes-tragic combination. Some have commented that kids now days need to toughen up, that bullying builds character. These comments tend to come from individuals that did not grow up in the digital age therefore their experiences are not the same.
It is beyond heartbreaking to read about our young kids dying by suicide at such a high rate. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for our teens. Meeting families that have been affected is never easy. These kids were loved, they were wanted, they were important, and they remain so. However, we can only assume that they felt the opposite. People often have the nicest things to say about those who have died by suicide, which makes me wonder if even one of those complements had been said to the hurt individual while they were alive would have made a difference? I like to think it would have.
We often hear the phrase – “hurt people, hurt people,”, which can be true, but hurt people also want to feel less alone. They may hurt someone to feel less alone.
When teaching your kids to be kind also remind them to reach out to those who seem left out. Simply smiling at someone can make a difference. Sending a positively sincere private message can also be effective.
Relational bullying predominates yet not necessarily illegal and difficult to identify. This type of aggression includes being left out of activities and events, being ignored, rumors being spread, and even eye rolling. This type of bullying can have negative psychological effects.
There are civil right protection,s and protections for those with disabilities, and even protections from discrimination based on your gender. The majority of our kids fall through the cracks if they do not fit into one of these categories. Prevention and awareness are vital along with anonymous reporting systems. It is understandable that when self esteem is low so is the want to report. A few states have mandated that schools incorporate an anonymous reporting for students along with prevention programs and procedures.
When bullying becomes a crime. It is never acceptable to embarrass, shame or verbally attack someone. However, if you damage someone’s property, threaten, intimidate, harasses or physically assault them that is when you cross the legal line. Laws have strengthened over time to keep up with the changing and ever evolving methods people use to hurt others.
Remember the golden rule and be kind. Let us leave those we interact with a little better than how we found them.
If positive language and kindness campaigns don’t work for you than simply repeat after me “don’t be an jerk”; whether you are at school, at work, on the road, in a long line to order coffee, just don’t be a jerk.
Copyright 2019 by Michelle Sacks. All Rights Reserved.
Michelle Sack is the Director of the Safe School Institute at Crime Stoppers of Houston