One "Person" Can Make A Difference

...a lesson for bullies, bystanders and victims


Bullying is by far one of the greatest problems facing our society today.  It is of grave concern to children, educators, and parents alike. Bullying has become somewhat of an epidemic perhaps due in part to our violent subculture and the increasing dependence on the internet for interpersonal communication.  Suffice to say it is a complicated issue that is influenced by a great many factors and cannot be oversimplified.  Whatever the reason, bullying is a scourge that scars the very fiber of our children and can affect them adversely for the rest of their lives.  Sadly, the mental anguish experienced by youths is so extreme that in most cases it amounts to torture and can sometimes have fatal consequences.  In the end, no one deserves to have their childhood stolen from them.

Education is the key.  Children need to receive a consistent positive message from parents, educators, and any other meaningful influence.  The goal of this story is to provide that education and to deliver the message in a manner children can both understand and relate to in an entertaining fashion.  In doing so it is hoped that they not only understand bullying behavior, but also have the courage to affect change while increasing awareness for victims, bystanders, and even the bullies themselves.  The most important message, I believe, is the negative effect of bystanders (if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem) and the fact that any one person can indeed make a difference.

"The pond was Marty’s most favorite place in the entire world and he was content there, far away from all the other barn animals. He used to go to the pond with his dad all the time. They would race leaves in the water or just lay in the cool grass while looking at the clouds and listening to the ducks quack. There was a rickety old fence just beyond the pond that separated it from a wide open field overflowing with golden wheat. Sometimes the field seemed to shift like the blowing sands of a desert and sometimes it looked like a huge yellow lake with the wheat rolling like waves on top of it. Small yellow chickadees would crowd on the gnarled fence boards that dipped between crumbling wooden posts. They chirped together like an orchestra and often flew off in a large group skimming the surface of the wheat field. Marty’s only friend, a passing summer’s breeze, stroked his fur with warmth and gently danced in his whiskers. The pond was indeed perfect and the only place Marty felt he belonged. It was as though everything around the pond was in harmony and Marty often wished that the barn could be the same way too."

WHAT IS BULLYING?

Bullying is anything that is said and/or done in a harassing manner. It is basically, picking on someone repetitively. This can be done physically, verbally, or emotionally. Sometimes bullying is confused with an individual incident (either a physical or verbal confrontation or even name calling). If it is an isolated event (does not occur on a continual basis), then it is not bullying. Think of bullying as a form of torture due to the continued mental distress experience by a victim. That said, these isolated incidents are non-the-less unacceptable and require immediate attention and proper resolution.

3 Types of Bullying:

There are three forms of bullying. These are as follows:

1. PHYSICAL (BY USING FORCE)

- pushing, kicking, punching, slapping, etc.

- throwing things at a victim

- breaking or damaging a victim’s item(s)

- taking a victim’s item(s) or preventing them from using these things

2. VERBAL (BY THREATENING)

- saying that they are going to “kill” the victim

- saying that they are going to beat them up or get someone else to

- saying that they are going to break their arms, legs, nose, etc.

- saying that they are going to stab them

- telling the victim to “watch your back”

3. EMOTIONAL (BY HURTING FEELINGS)

- telling someone that they are ugly, fat, stupid, etc.

- name calling

- isolation or exclusion

- making and/or spreading rumors or lies

-making fun of someone’s disability

- making fun of someone’s ethnicity

In general, girls tend to be better at or engage more in emotional bullying while boys tend to be better at physical bullying although this is not always the case.

CYBER BULLYING

Cyber Bullying is bullying that occurs on the internet. It incorporates the same forms of bullying except for the physical aspect. Cyber Bullying is not a new type of bullying, but the internet provides a relatively new venue for it. This is concerning for several reasons. Firstly, at one time the home represented a “safe haven” for kids (a fortress if you will that could not be penetrated by the problems and anxieties associated with the outside world). With the advent of computers and the internet however, the torment of bullying can follow a victim to the inner sanctum of their home. In essence, making them feel like there is no safe haven.

In addition, due to the anonymity associated with the internet, kids tend to be more inclined to engage or participate in bullying behavior when they wouldn’t ordinarily do so in person. Sometimes, they do it simply because they can (it is very easy). Sometimes, it is difficult to properly convey the meaning of a sentence and the printed/typed word can be taken out of context. This tends to “get out of hand” at times and online conversations can deteriorate and escalate to bullying proportions. They best way to resolve a situation is to talk in person. Never say/type anything in anger since people usually doesn’t mean and will likely regret their immediate response. Children must be accountable for what they do on line and must be taught that their standard of behavior does not change when they are on the internet and also to "think before they click." 

It is very easy to become a bystander in these online situations and also get drawn into the heated conversation.

Kids who are being harassed on line should print out a copy of the conversations or e-mails and immediately tell an adult. Sometimes, a victim may negate disclosing his/her part of the conversation because they may have aggravated the situation. That said, kids should block e-mails from people that are not their friends and refrain from conversing with anyone on line that they do not know personally and would not speak to in person.

WHY WE SHOULD BE CONCERNED

Bullying is not acceptable. Aside from the obvious social implications, bullying is also concerning from a criminal perspective. In some instances, bullies are criminals since their actions may be defined as criminal and they may be subject to arrest and charge (i.e. assault, robbery, theft, mischief, threatening and in some instances criminal harassment).   One can also be charged as a “party to an offence”! Even though the person may not be directly involved, they may be charged with the same offence if they assist or encourage that behavior. Most instances of physical and verbal bulling can result in criminal charges (for assault and threatening).  However, only sometimes if not rarely criminal charges will be applicable with regards to social/emotional bulling.  It is not generally against the law to be mean, annoying or to exclude.  Harassment does not necessarily constitute criminal harassment as sexual harassment does not necessarily constitute sexual assault.  Keep in mind that only about 10 percent of bullying is physical in nature where as the majority is social/emotional.  Generally speaking, an element of fear needs to exist as well as a repetative aspect regarding behavior in order for criminal harassment to be considered (i.e. stalking).   That said,  bullying behavior on the whole can indeed lead to criminal behavior. In fact, as many as one out of four elementary school bullies have a criminal record by the time they are thirty. It is important to note that in Canada, charges cannot be laid upon a person unless they have reached the age of twelve. That said laying criminal charges against a bully is more or less an act of last resort as this may have the opposite desired effect (although it is warranted in some instances when considering the seriousness of the crime, past warnings, unwillingness to accept responsibility and general attitude of the accused). It is important to attempt to alter behavior rather than dwell strictly on punitive measures via the court system (a philosophy that is present in the Youth Criminal Justice Act). But make no mistake; bullies must learn to take ownership and be held accountable for their actions. However, parents of victims are often influenced by emotion and feel (if not demand) criminal charges be laid where applicable as a form of punishment or for retribution.

But of greater importance/concern is the psychological damage inflicted upon the victims. Victims of bullying often have problems with grades as their thoughts are preoccupied and they generally do not wish to be in a setting where the bully is present and active (the school setting). Any child targeted by a bully undoubtedly feels fear, isolation, helplessness, and perhaps even embarrassment. Bullying can lead to numerous physical and psychological long and short-term effects. A victim can grow up to have numerous health problems such as anxiety, headaches, nausea, ulcers, sleeplessness, kidney complaints, skin rashes, irritable bowel syndrome, raised blood pressure, loss of confidence, tears, and even suicide (due to isolation from peers). The effects of bullying can manifest itself for a lifetime. Of course, this is of grave concern for both parents and society as a whole.     

 

With ignorance comes fear – from fear comes bigotry. Education is the key to acceptance.” – Kathleen Patel
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