Bullying has become an epidemic over the last few years leaving families left in shambles after teenagers feeling as if they have no safe place turn to suicide as a way out. The number of students that are dropping out of school each month because they are being bullied is increasing at an alarming rate. Feeling the weight of the world upon their shoulders is often too much for them to handle, forcing them to turn to self mutilation, alcohol, drugs, or even bullying others. By creating much needed anti bully groups within the schools we would give these students a voice, and show them that they are not alone in this journey.
The Effects Bullying Has on Students and Their Families
As some children spend their whole summer counting down the days until they can hang out with their friends again, other children dread the first day of school. Each day children come up with new reasons not to go to school, and most of the time parents don’t even realize the fear that lies inside their children. The fear of someone physically, verbally, and emotionally assaulting them can keep a child trapped in this hell that most people would call school. Often children try to bury their problems, but when they are bullied at school, it can feel as if every thing is falling down around them. If you ever been the victim of a bully or been a bully yourself then you should know that you are not alone.
When you hear the word bully, you may think of a girl at school who is always making fun of others. For some, it’s the biggest guy in the neighborhood who is always trying to start a fight with someone littler them. Then again sometimes “bully” means a whole group of children that chose to pick on anyone that is different from them. Bullying affects the victim’s mind, body, attendance, grades, and relationships with their families and friends whether they are physically attacked or bullied online. Bullying affects nearly 30 percent of school-aged youth on a monthly basis. (Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Murton, and Scheidt, 2001) Not having a good support team to turn to at home gives the child little or no hope that situation they are in will ever change, making it even more likely for them to become victims.
The question of why someone would need to hurt someone else in order to feel good about whom they are or get attention has been asked for ages, and although it sounds like a ridiculous question to ask, there is an excellent answer. Children often feel the need to bully other children because they are different. Gays, lesbians, and bisexual teens are often tormented by heterosexual teens. Obese or overweight teens are bullied by teens of a normal weight especially girls younger than 20 years (Dracic, 2009). Some bullies they bully for the simple reason that when you make someone feel unpleasant, you gain power over him or her. Power makes people feel like they’re better than others, in turn making them feel really good about themselves. Power also makes you stand out from the crowd. It’s a way to get attention from other children, and sometimes even adults. It is a way to feel stronger, taller, and often more important because of the audience your bullying captures. Even if the attention you are getting from bullying others is negative you often rationalize in your mind that at least you are getting attention.
Years ago the terms teasing, gossiping, or horsing around were used instead of bullying, and even though it may have been an issue, it wasn’t something that parents and teachers were too concerned about. Nowadays with all the new technology what used to be thought of as child’s play has taken a turn in a very scary direction. Children now have access to instant messaging, video chat, text messaging, picture mail, e-mail, cell phones, computers, and social network such as Facebook and Myspace; all of which allow them to be even more vulnerable to cyber bullying as well as mental and emotional attacks. As parents you can’t always be right next to your child to protect them from the outside world, and as a child you often feel as if you have done something to cause the bullying so you fail to report it. Have you ever disliked someone because of looks, the way they talk, a disability, gender, by mere association with others you dislike; or have you heard that someone said something and then repeated it? These are mild forms of bullying; of course there are more serious forms such as physically attacking someone or attacking them via the Internet.
Students that get bullied react in different ways whether it is feeling depressed, having low self esteem, low self worth, poor health, poor grades, and even suicidal thoughts or cutting. I am the mother of a 13-year-old boy that was a victim of physical attacks as well as cyber bullying. At first I noticed that he would come home from school, close the door and shut the world out. At the time I figured it was just his age. Slowly I noticed his grades started to slip and then school just became a little less important, since he had been a straight A student I had an alarm go off but failed to react. The real eye opener was the day we discovered he was cutting himself, after a few months of counseling sessions I realized my son’s cutting was a cry for help and as his parent it was my responsibility to protect him, so how could I have missed the signs? As difficult as it was I had to try to understand that he was cutting himself as a way to remain in control, but also release all of the hurt and anger he was feeling. At the time our whole family felt like victims of these bullies.
Students deserve to feel safe and happy at school, but when they get bullied they start to react in a manner uncharacteristic of them. They no longer want to go to school, they lose interest in the friends they do have, their grades start to drop because instead on focusing on their schoolwork and what assignments the teacher’s are giving, they think about why bullies are out to hurt them and what they’ve done wrong. This is a big problem for not only the students but also their families, friends, teachers, schools and community. Once a student stops feeling safe at school, they feel as if there is no reason to continue to go. It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day because of fear of attack or intimidation by other students. (National Education Association) We can’t expect children to go to school and keep their grades up when they have to spend the day defending who they are.
Millions of dollars have been invested in anti bullying campaigns in the past decade. At least 42 states have passed laws against bullying most of which have been done since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, where two troubled boys killed themselves and 13 others (Cloud, 2010). Since the Columbine incident there have been many cases of school violence which stemmed from those children feeling as if they had no other way out then to use violence to stop the bullies from tormenting them. Schools should have stricter bullying guidelines giving bullies only one chance, and if they get caught bullying after that one time they should be referred to juvenile authorities. We need to take a stand and show these children that they are not just bullying the victim; they are essentially bullying the whole community. We need to take a stand and protect these children by showing them we are listening, and we will not stand by and let them become another statistic.
I am a volunteer, PTA president, student, friend, daughter, and mother; but most important I am former bully. With my own demons inside eating at me I turned that anger on every person that I came in contact with, whether it was friends, family, teachers, or strangers. I walked the halls of my high school thinking I was untouchable; my eyes filed with emptiness the look I would give before I attacked made even my family terrified. I never realized how my actions affected the people that I tormented until last summer when one of my victims told me she almost ended her life 15 years ago because of my actions. That day would forever change my life; that was the day I took a stand to make a difference. After I was confronted by my victim, I felt as if it were my calling to change the path of any child I meet that either is the victim of a bully or a child that is a bully. By starting an anti bullying group at the school my children attend, I can wholeheartedly feel as if I am doing my part to change the future. Too often children try to bury their problems, but when they are bullied at school, it can feel as if every thing is falling down around them; we need to teach them suicide or violence isn’t the way out.
Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Murton, and Scheidt, 2001
Cloud, J. (2010, October). When Bullying Turns Deadly: Can It Be Stopped? . TIME, (), Retrieved from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2024210,00.html
(Dracic, S. (2009). Bullying And Peer Victimization. Materia Socio Medica, 21(4), 216-219