Friday, April 8, 2011

The New Face of Bullying

I met a childhood bully in a building supply store yesterday afternoon.

He kindly asked me if I wanted one of this week's sales fliers, unaware of who I was and that we had a past history.

More than 30 years ago, this same person would torment me in the hours before recess, threatening to beat me up.
He was intimidating and I was scared, but the physical violence I encountered was far less than what I got from fighting with my brothers at home. Yet it was still bullying.

Now, three decades later, I was sad to see what had become of him. In the minute we interacted in the store's entryway, I saw a man beaten down by life - someone to be pitied rather than feared.

Life can sometimes offer contrary perspectives on the same day.

Such was the case Thursday, when I connected the dots to a friend's Facebook post earlier in the week that asked for prayers.

The prayers were for a teenage girl who died expectedly, her death a suicide - the final act of a young girl reportedly the target of bullies.

I don't know the details of this girl's death, nor do I need to.

What I do know is that a young woman - loved by many according to the volume of posts on a Facebook memorial page - died far too young and needlessly, another victim of the insidious new type of bullying that exists.

Technology has brought us amazing, life-changing advancements. It has also created a new set of deadly tools for those who wish to harm others - constant text messaging and outlets like Facebook, MySpace and others among them.

While I was a boy, the bullying stopped when I returned to my home.

Today's bullies are relentless, however. Technology can extend their tormenting beyond the school setting, creating a 24/7 barrage of hate that wears down even the strongest of people - causing teenagers to think there is no relief, no way to stop the constant pain.

And thousands of teenagers and young adults kill themselves annually as a result.

Bullied because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.

Bullied because of their religious beliefs, their social status, their grades, their clothes.

Bullied because their mere existence makes someone else feel jealous, or stupid or insignificant.

Bullied just because.

We are losing a generation of young people because of the new form of bullying. It is a societal cancer that needs to be continually addressed and ultimately stopped.

Many excellent anti-bullying  resources exist for those who want to take a stand. Check out the few I've listed - or research your own - and then take action.

Work with your local school to enact anti-bullying policies and procedures.

Help form an anti-bullying response team among students at your elementary, middle and high schools - groups of students dedicated to reaching out and helping those who are victimized.

Create and support positive outlets for young people - particularly those at greatest risk for self-harm or suicide.

And address the hurtful comments and actions immediately when you hear or see them. Hold the bullies accountable and protect those who feel they have no place to turn.

Change can only happen through action. Yours and mine.

No comments:

Post a Comment