Bullying is Not a ‘Rite of Passage’
Bullying. Many say it’s an inevitable experience that every child goes through; some even go as far as to say it is a ‘rite of passage’. Unfortunately, this blasé attitude concerning bullying perpetuates a problem that threatens the emotional and sometimes physical safety of children. While physical bullying still occurs and is harmful to children in many ways, the means of bullying is morphing into something much worse. What is this new and insidious form of harassment children are facing? Cyber Bullying.
Today children are able to be in constant contact with their peers. The benefits are obvious but the potential for harm is there as well, especially with children who don’t have the knowledge and skills to speak out against bullying.
What happens when a child can’t escape a bully? What happens when harassment follows them wherever they go, even into their own home?
Cyber bullying targets the emotional health of children by using the internet and indirect forms of communication to attack and degrade. Emotional bullying tends to be a more subtle type of harassment which targets the child and seeks to isolate them through manipulation, derogatory comments or threatening messages. Unlike the overt nature of physical bulling emotional trauma from harassment builds over time. Studies have shown that kids who are cyberbullied are more likely to be unwilling to attend school, abuse substances, struggle with depression and even commit suicide.
Events that have the potential to cause depression and suicide in children are not a ‘rite of passage’. We call it bullying – a word that belittles the severity of such encounters rather than calling it what it is, harassment. Because its children and their peers we don’t want to make it sound too scary or too serious but ‘bullying’ is just another word for harassment.
What then do we do in light of this growing form of emotional harassment? The first step is to take it seriously. No child in the midst of being bullied and harassed is going to have the mindset that it’s just a ‘rite of passage’ and they need to ‘toughen up’. Bullying that goes unchecked is shown to cause severe emotional trauma in children. This is not a rite of passage. It is harmful situation that, coupled with advancing technology, children are having a harder and harder time escaping.
There are increasing amounts of resources for parents, teachers and children on how to prevent and deal with bullying. However, before any of these things will help we all need to change our perspective on bullying from a casual ‘it’s a rite of passage’ stance to one that acknowledges the poetical harm and takes it seriously.
Bullying Prevention Resources: