Bullying has been around for as long as one can remember, and while no one likes to be called “four eyes” or getting a wedgie, there seems to have been an innocence lost when it comes to being picked on. In fact, bullying is no longer just a benign problem, and has been getting much worse over the years. Not only that, but it has taken on new forms such as cyberbullying.
As the internet becomes even more mainstream and viral videos can be circulated through the net instantly, the potential for significant - and sometimes permanent - humiliation is ever-growing. A recent case of bullying that you may have heard about involved two little girls, one just 10 years old and the other girl 11 years old.
Long Beach, CA
What started off as a slight disagreement over a boy that they both liked, ended up becoming a full-blown fight that was scheduled to take place after class. The younger girl, Joanna Ramos, fought the older girl after she was instigated by several classmates. According to reports, they both took their time taking their backpacks off and tying their hair in buns, and waited for someone to shout “Go!” so they could start hitting each other. The fight escalated, and ended in tragedy. Ramos died from blunt force trauma just hours later, in what medical officials are calling a rare, unfortunate incident.
Unfortunate? I’ll say. Especially considering the case is now being treated as a homicide. One family’s life is ruined because they no longer have their little girl. Another family’s life is ruined because their little girl will be forever changed, having been responsible for taking another life.
School shootings have long been attributed to excessive bullying. One needs to look no further than the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, where the shooters were victims of bullying and eventually snapped. Recently, a 17-year-old student at Chardon High School in Ohio opened fire on a cafeteria filled with his fellow classmates. Three students were killed and two were severely injured.
Investigators believe that bullying had nothing to do with the killer's motives, but stated that the shooter had a rough time growing up with an abusive father, and a 2009 fight with his uncle might have sent him spiraling into the world of violence.
However, it gives one pause . . . the aggressive arguments, constant tormenting and physical abuse all contributed to the killer's state of mind, and these are some of the same signs of bullying.
Who is to Blame?
Who is to blame for letting these things develop and go unnoticed or ignored? The parents? The school? Some may attribute it to a case of “nature versus nurture,” but bullying is something that we are exposed to every day of our lives . . . whether it is through social media venues like Facebook or YouTube, mean students or teachers at school, or even at our own workplaces through aggressive coworkers and managers. It is commonly believed that bullying causes low self-esteem in the bullied individuals; but what some may not realize is that bullying actually stems from low self-esteem in the first place, and thus perpetuates a vicious cycle.
Psychologists attribute the development of bullying behavior to negative events and enormous stress that a young child might experience, such as the separation of parents, poor academic performance, lack of real friends, or anxiety over their self-image. Through harassment and bullying, these individuals gain the feeling of superiority and power, which can be addictive to an insecure young mind.
What Can Be Done?
While it can be difficult to reverse the development of a bully once in motion, researchers find that the most effective way to combat bullying is by teaching your child at a young age the importance of empathy and compassion. Countless parenting guides, magazines and specialists stress how important it is to praise your child for their accomplishments so that they may always know to seek positive emotions instead of negative ones.
If possible, limit the amount of violent media your child watches, and spend time doing fun activities together. If your child is a victim of bullying, do everything you can to speak with the school and take proactive measures before it develops into something much deeper, with potentially tragic consequences.