Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bullying in Schools Part Two

            After last week, I felt the need to write a follow up to my last blog post on bullying. Oddly enough when I called the school that Monday, the principal told me that they were doing a series that week to address the issue of bullying with the students. My daughter got in the car that Thursday, and I could tell something was bothering her. She started to cry saying that they had been watching a power point presentation about bullying in schools (the program the principal talked about). My daughter said that the teacher told them about several kids who had committed suicide due to continuous bullying including some as young as 8 years old. I thought that was what she was upset about and was prepared to talk to her about it since I knew it was coming. However, she blindsided me with something I was completely unprepared for. What bothered her more than the suicides was the fact that some of the kids in her class were actually laughing about it. She started crying harder and said “Mom, what is wrong with them? How can they think a second grader who would rather die than go to school because of bullying is funny? He felt so alone in the world. Like everyone hated him. How is that funny?” With all my years of education and experience in psychology, I didn’t have an answer. It made me sick to my stomach.

It’s the same feeling I get when I see videos of young people committing random acts of violence and filming it while laughing. In our local news, they recently showed a video of a young man who stood on the sidewalk of a shopping center and hit a middle aged woman in the face when she walked by. Then he ran off laughing, and you could hear his friend who was filming it laughing as well. There was also another story in the national news of a teenage boy who went into a convalescent home and poured a pitcher of ice water on an elderly woman in a wheelchair. He thought it was so funny, he brought back several of his friends to do it again. They thought it was funny too. What about the trend where young people were going to fast food drive thru windows and throwing liquids or other substances on the employees working there? Are you sick? You should be. All you have to do is spend a few minutes on YouTube and you can see all the random violence you want. YouTube does try to remove these videos, but there are so many uploaded per day that it takes time to find and remove the bad ones. Plus, there are other venues for posting videos.
Which brings me to another problem – how technology has aided in bullying. My daughter is constantly bugging me for a cell phone and Facebook account, but she admitted that many of the bullied kids reported being harassed 24/7 on their cell phones and on social networks like Facebook. Parents need to check on their kids cell phones, Facebook accounts, and the online histories of their computers. I tell my kids they only have the privacy I allow them.
Finally, I know this is a hot topic for debate, but I have a real problem with some video games. No, I don’t think video games cause people to be violent. My problem with video games is more subtle – desensitization towards violence or an erosion of compassion. In my opinion, when video games reward people for antisocial behaviors like robbery, theft, rape, car jacking, murder, etc. and the more violent the better, you can’t tell me that somewhere along the line that doesn’t have an effect on young people. Some kids spend hours playing games where compassion is a weakness and even a hindrance in progressing to the next level. Parents have to be aware of the games their kids are playing. Movies and music can also carry violent antisocial messages. Pay attention to the ratings and warning labels.
Reading back over this I'm thinking I sound like an old person criticizing movies, music and video games. When did that happen? Despite all of this, I don’t think the world is going to hell in a hand basket. There are plenty of good people around. We just have to be more vocal. We can’t stick our heads in the sand and pretend things will get better as our kids get older. As parents, aunts, uncles, mentors, teachers, grandparents, adults in general, we need to be aware of what is going on with our young people. As a working parent, I know that time is precious and checking up on our kids’ cell phones, social networks, games, music, movies, computer websites, etc. can seem overwhelming. My question to you is – Can we afford not to?

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