Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bullying is Real

Bullying is real. So is cyberbullying.

I just read an article in TIME magazine, October edition, about bullying. In that sad shocking article, one can't help but feeling upset and nervous. Four US teenagers committed suicide last September after being bullied by their friends. This is not a horror movie, unfortunately, this is real.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:
"In the past four weeks, four US teenagers killed themselves after being harassed by schoolmates. Technology is quickly changing how kids bully one another."
"Bullies can be anywhere but there's no place they show up more than in schools"
"The trouble is, the technology of bullying has advanced much faster than efforts to stop it ever could. If you have a cell phone, you can post to your entire school that a girl is a slut or a boy is a fag - and you can attach unflattering photo or video to prove it. At least bullies of previous decades had to hold you down before they could spit in your face."
"There is a chicken-egg quality to bullying - you get hurt, and then you exact a price for it. And today, if you have so much as a Twitter account, you can exact that price in just 140 characters before any school official has a chance to talk you down. You post your worst thoughts in a heated moment, and the damage is done."
"Hateful behavior is never appropriate, no matter whether it happens online or in person. The idea that one is different from the other is the major problem." In short, it is incivility, wherever it occurs, that launches what can become a vicious bullying cycle."

I have read and re-read the above article a few times, and then I observe my surrounding. I can’t help but notice that in my neighborhood nowadays, a kid as young as 7 year old goes to school carrying a smartphone. As parents, we need to be wise, smart, and up-to-date in handling the issue. Here are a few points that came into my mind:

1. Bullying is a mindset. As quoted above, the behavior is the problem. If a kid grows up in an environment which consistently showing that violent, embarrassment, hatred is the only way to survive; the kid will grow up mimicking those behaviors. If a kid lives in an environment that limits its social interaction to only certain people (same race, religion or social economic status); the kid will most likely brand everyone who are different from them as mistakes. Yes, adults play an important role in determining what a child thinks or behaves.

2. Technology is only a tool. Human drives it. The tool won't type hatred message by itself nor post unflattering videos by itself. We must not sit back and let technology takes control of our lives completely. Granting a child an access to this technology means we must insert ourselves a full responsibility in controlling how our kid uses it. Giving 100% freedom to your under-aged child to control the usage of the technology - without enough supervision - is totally wrong. Children will always be children. In short, they are not the most mature and wisest human being. The careless mistake that most parents do is that we are very proactive (and extra protective) in protecting our kids from being bullied. We often forget that our kids have the possibility to bully others too, intentionally or not. Nowadays, this thing is easily done with only a click on the fingers.

3. Education institutions must carry half of the responsibility - together with parents - to constantly monitor and educate the children about the bullying behavior and its consequences. Schools must always update their means and ways to catch up with newest trend in bullying habit. It's never too early to teach our young kids about bullying. The view and the stand from the school will definitely help reducing the children's negative mindset and behavior, if any, to a minimum controllable point.

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