Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bullying in the modern age....and why kids die.

Bullying is nothing new. As long as there have been kids bigger then other kids, and as long as there has been kids who needed to make others feel small to make themselves feel big, there has been bullying. I'm not really completely sure if bullying is getting worse, in fact I believe it maybe getting somewhat better then in the past, the difference is how the bullied react as apposed to the past.

Here are some Bullying Statistics you might find interesting. You can follow the link to get the full rundown, but here's a summary. 60%  of kids feel bullied, but only 16% of staff at schools feel kids are bullied. Right off the bat we see one of the big problems. Denial by the institutions we send our kids to. The thing is, most bullies have figured out how to do what they do where staff can't see. Out of sight, out of mind. Another problem is many school bullies are not the rough lugs they later become, but in school they are often well liked by the teachers, and are often involved in school sports and other programs. (However the statistics above show they often end up in jail, and even become life time criminals) The staff sees them as outstanding students, but once a teachers back is turned they become monsters.

And the more they get away with it, the more they do it, because they can. They don't pick on just the small, "nerdy" kids, they study the pack and figure out the ones the staff DOESN'T like, and are less likely to believe. Or the ones they can scare to the point they would never tell. The entire school system is prone to ignoring the pleas of "problem" students. When it comes down to the word of the "popular, well liked" student, and the "outcast", who is most often believed? I've seen bullying ENCOURAGED in school by certain staff if it was their star players or students picking on the non-popular kids. Bullies become teachers too, and let it go on under their noses sometimes, it's what they did when THEY were in school and think it's the right of the "upper crust" to keep the "under crust" in it's place.

25% of students felt staff did something when there was bullying, 71% of staff believed they did something. Once again it goes to show just how little the staff of our schools really know and understand what's going on around them. 66% of school shootings have had bullying as a factor. So why has bullying turned so deadly in the last 20-30 years or so??? It's always been there, but why are the bullied now bringing guns to school to settle the score??

The question is a complex one, but one of the main reasons I feel we are seeing an increase in retaliation against bullies and other kids in schools is because of pride and self worth. These aren't a bad thing in and of themselves, but can turn deadly when things are brushed under the rug because it's just "kids". Kids are growing up faster then ever, adults know if they attack other adults there's a chance someone is going to die. But with kids it's assumed it won't get to that point... but why is that??? What makes people think that just because they are kids that they won't try and react as an adult would? Kids are often taking care of themselves now at an early age, having to grow up and learn how to be responsible. Mom and Dad are often at work now, because people just can't live on single incomes anymore. Or even as often, it's a single parent trying to provide like a couple would. Long hours, late nights, and often kids are learning faster, and taking on more at an early age.

In the past, kids who were bullied might try and fight back, till one time they won. Or they might have just taken it, and grown up to be the timid and picked on adult. But the path of just giving in, and letting the bully win is becoming harder and harder for kids to swallow, they have more self worth than that now, and won't live like that. If they can't beat them back with their fist, and if they feel the school or the parents aren't doing anything, they will take care of it themselves. Somehow they will make it stop. However they can.  And the next thing you know you have dead bullies. And often others as well, sometimes it's also the kids who stood around and laughed, or just the one's who watched and did nothing who get the busy end of the gun pointed their way. Sometimes it's just random people, because NO ONE helped or did anything to stop the pain. So everyone must pay. Bullying doesn't cause just physical damage, but emotional damage as well. Deep un-healing wounds in some.

The biggest problem is the old school thinking that it's just "kids being kids". It's just simply not that simple anymore, beaten down kids no longer have to stay on the ground eating dirt. It may ruin their own lives, and others as well, but they know they don't HAVE to just take it, if no one else can or will, they can make it stop. They don't have to let someone else make them feel like nothing, make them a laughing stock. They will show them, show them ALL!! And the next thing you know kids are dead.

If schools would just change their thinking it could almost all be avoided. Zero tolerance schools are a good start, but everyone has to make stopping the bullying priority number one. Not even one singe kid should have to live in fear, or should have to be made to feel less then anyone else because of the others ability to "beat them up, or put them down". And if the schools react, and take care of the problems, then no one has to die. They have to be proactive, not every kid is going to report bullying, some will fear retaliation, humiliation, or not being believed. Schools are great about treating students in disrespectful ways, and ignoring what they don't want to deal with.

Parents also need to try and make sure their kids feel safe coming to them with these kinds of things. Parents don't get the chance like teachers do to see it happening, but if your kids are comfortable sharing with you, then they should let you know if this kind of stuff is going on. Sometimes it still may be to embarrassing for the child to admit. Then look for signs of wanting to avoid school, or certain people in school. Depression and sadness could also be hints. If your kid comes to you, or if you suspect, you MUST do something, drastic if need be. If the school won't do anything, pull your kid out of school and demand a review of the board, go to the papers, raise hell. Let your kid know YOU care, even if no one else does, and that it won't be tolerated!!!

And for the 33% of school shootings that AREN'T bullying related? In part you can blame the media, not directly, but indirectly. If a kid is thinking of taking their own life, what better way to be remembered for all time then by going down in a blaze of glory? And they may not have been bullied, but often they are outcast, tormented by other student in other ways then physical, sometimes just by exclusion. Then you add in a broken heart, hurt feelings, rejection, or other extreme emotional pain and there is no telling what crazy stuff a kid might do. Almost all either take their own life directly, or do "suicide by cop". Often after taking as many of their tormentors, or random victims, along as possible.

There isn't much you can do about the emotionally unstable. Almost all teenagers could be considered to fall into the category at one time or another. But you can try and pay as much attention to the triggers of these types of behaviors as possible. You can't stop hurt feelings, and you can't stop teenagers breaking each others hearts, but you can stop the bullying and tormenting. Zero tolerance, even from staff, and a policy of dismissal of any staff that doesn't act on knowledge of possible bullying or tormenting, is a great first step. The best way to make sure people are paying attention is to make sure that not paying attention has too high a cost to risk it. Because in the end it does, for everyone. Unforgivably the death of many kids hasn't been enough cost for the institutions yet, but maybe hitting their wallet would serve better?

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