If I receive one more video of some young kid being pushed around and physically assaulted by some other young kid, I think I'm going to commit bodily harm to the person who sent it to me. When did it become "cool" to record and distribute for the world to see the schoolyard exploits of the bully? In this world of hyper-connectivity, it not only has become increasingly easy to share such media, but it has also become popular.
I was recently sent a video that showed a group of middle-school-aged girls in a locker room. This video just so happens to be a reversal of roles, where the bully gets her ass handed to her by the bullied, but I suspect that this isn't the norm. I admit, I watched the video begrudgingly, but I ended up rooting for the bullied girl (I do not advocate schoolyard fighting, bullying, or violence of any sort), it was good to see a bully get their comeuppance for once.
There are several phenomena at play here: a perceived increase in bullying; a proliferation of the digital recording and sharing of such incidents; the conflation and misidentification of normal childhood behavior and bullying; and generation of bad parenting decisions.
Prevalence of Bullying
According to studies conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2005, '07, and '09, bullying at schools reported by children aged 12-18 has been steady at around 30 percent over this timeframe. There was a rise reaching back from 2003 to 2005 from 7.1 percent to 28.1 percent, but I would posit that bullying hasn't made the marked increase that it seems, but has simply seen an uptick in reporting and awareness.
When I was a kid, I remember being bullied, and I also remember being a bully. I guess the culture of my childhood understood that this was just part of being a kid. This was the procedure for establishing pecking order in the chaotic world that is childhood. I remember crying to my mother that I needed this "fresh" pair of shoes or that "fly" jacket to match and how I wouldn't "fit in" if I didn't have them ' my mother couldn't care less. To a degree, I still believe that this is the case, it's all about the almighty determiner in a kid's young life ' fitting in.
I can recall my oldest nephew being bullied when he was in grade school and I recall my response to him being somewhere along the lines of "stand up for yourself!" Of course it's not as simple as that anymore, what with cyber-bullying ' that's yet another level of complexity. It's so much more than just standing up for yourself, it's also teaching our children to be super-aware of their cyber footprint because it will have far greater implications than it ever did for us.
Misidentifying Bullying and Bad Parenting
I believe that my generation has continued a trend created by our parents, one of raising thin skinned, emotionally and physically fragile children that will break if your breathe on them. We've created children who can't withstand childhood.
Let me be clear ' it is NOT my position that bullying should be tolerated, I'm simply stating that we have diminished the resiliency of our children. I can write forever about this topic, but I'll save that for another article.
Having the "cooties" in my day, or as my kids say nowadays the "cheese touch" is NORMAL! Who the hell are you going to run from on the playground if no one is allowed to have the cheese touch?! How are you going to learn to forge alliances, tactically and strategically engage with your opponents, learn that nothing ' good or bad ' lasts forever and your enemy this week will be your friend next week? How do we suppose they learn these critical life skills if at every turn we jump in to save them the embarrassment of a few days of not being the cool kid? If we expect them to learn these things when they are in the world then they are already behind the curve and we put them there. The problem is - that's the exact situation we have created for them.
That genie has already been let out of the bottle and now we have to deal with the "soft" kids that we have. In the long term, we need to teach our kids how to protect themselves from the foolishness, but in the short term we need to teach them how to fend for themselves in the environment that is their own ' the schoolyard. That doesn't mean violence, it means that they need to learn to negotiate and navigate that terrain in order to learn to negotiate and navigate the office as an adult.
Everyone and their brother has a cell phone nowadays. That's all that's needed to produce a video and post it to the web in less time than it used to take to dial a friend's phone number on a rotary phone. Sites like YouTube.com and WorldStarHipHop.com make it even easier to share the foolishness with the world.
Young girls take pictures of their half-naked bodies and send them to little Billy, who then sends them to all of his boys. They can't even grasp the implications of what they're doing. You can't un-ring that bell ' once you hit "send", it's there for the world to see.
Things have definitely gotten out of hand. Whenever you hear about a kid that took their own life because they couldn't stand the embarrassment, then we have a serious problem that needs serious attention. There are several programs where kids and parents can go for help in dealing with a bullying situation, preventing bullying, and raising awareness to bullying. Here are few to get you started: