Friday, April 4, 2014

Bits & Pieces: To Bully or Not To Bully

I'll admit it. Sometimes when I have writer's block, or I'm just looking for a question of the day, I surf Facebook posts.

Earlier this week, a post by a friend struck a nerve. (Ok, honestly, it not only struck a nerve, but it tap danced on my last one.)

She talked about witnessing a young man working on his skateboarding skills. That in itself is not really noteworthy, except this young man kept working over and over and over to master a skill. Determination seemed to be the key to his success.

What was noteworthy, is that my friend witnessed numerous people making fun of, ridiculing and even being quite bullying towards this young man.

Unfortunately, to my friend's dismay, it wasn't just teens being rude to a peer. Some of the harshest comments came from the mouths of adults.

Let's face it, whatever you call it, bullying is here. It's like an insidious creature from the black lagoon which creeps in and covers everything in its path.

It has no age or gender limitations. It can come from the mouths of the very young to the very old. It can creep into every nook, cranny and well, aspect of life.

Let's face it, bullying is well, pure evil masquerading as just something that is part of everyday life.

After reading my friend's post, I posted a #QofD (Question of the Day) on the Grove Sun's Facebook page asking about bullying. The responses I got were a bit mixed.

Some blamed the lack of parenting at home. Others said rather than try to stop bullying, we need to teach children to face the attacks of bullies - and disappointment in life - to prepare them for the real world.

It's a lot to ponder. What do we do? Do we tell kids (and adults) to "suck it up buttercup" and to ignore the bullies, or do we tell the bullies to grow up and act like human beings?

Unfortunately, I think it becomes a mixture of both. We have to teach our children (and ourselves) to have a thicker skin. That's a given. I also think people in this world need to stop and think about what comes out of their mouths (and fingers) both in person and via social media.

Social media has given adults and students alike, a platform to spread hate, anger, lies and well, verbal venom with the click of a mouse and the stroke of a keyboard.

Anyone can start a Facebook page or group, or use their own profile to spread rumor, gossip and hate, all while dancing around the First Amendment / Free Speech laws.

I'll be honest, the "suck it up buttercup" lesson is hard for many reasons. The saying may be "sticks and stones may break bones, but words will never hurt me" but let's face it, words can wound deeper than the biggest stick or rock. This especially true as people post things to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter without thought.

The worry about how certain cyber bullies may or may not attack things stays in the back of my head on a daily basis. Let's face it, for an adult in their 40s, it becomes an extra layer of stress. For a teen without the coping skills, it not only impacts life and school, but also begins to hurt their health and wellbeing.

Frankly I'm tired of teens and adults who hide behind their computer monitors and chose to spread hate and more with a stroke of the keyboard.

Maybe we do need to learn how to grow thicker skins. But maybe too, its time for people to stand up, and to speak out - and say enough is simply enough.

Maybe then, we won't have adults spewing hate and venom out car windows as a young man practices skateboarding tricks in a parking lot; and instead have adults (and students alike) finding ways to encourage each other and build each other up.

Frankly I'm ready to live in a world with a little less venom and a lot more encouragement.

Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the April

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