Bullying is as old as the human race, and if you are a keen observer of the wild kingdom you know animal species bully each other, often without mercy.
Today’s bullying tactics are not what you, your father or your grandfather experienced. Technology has pushed the cruelty to new heights — or depths, depending on your point of view.
Bullying is especially vexing in schools, a fact that has compelled several dozen Orcutt Union School District educators last week to come to the defense of colleagues — and their profession in general — in what they see as personal attacks and bullying by members of a social-media group calling for district reform, a claim disputed by the founder of the Facebook group.
We are certain such disagreements can be, and usually are unpleasant for the combatants, but as adults they should be able to resolve their differences without rancor. In fact, we would expect nothing less from educators and those who want to see change in the public-education playbook.
Good people with honorable intentions must get together, explain each other’s position, and find the means to meet in the middle on solutions to what may or may not be a real problem.
However, the adult spat is not the purpose of this editorial. Instead, it is our intention to focus attention on bullying in general, and cyberbullying specifically. Despite recent tragic events sparked by online bullying, and a growing public awareness of youth bullying, it continues, virtually unabated, which suggests to us that responsible adults need to more closely monitor the social-media habits of their children.
Here is why such focus is so necessary:
Research indicates that thoughts about suicide and actual attempts among adolescents have nearly doubled since 2008. Suicide is the 2nd-leading cause of death for Americans aged 15-24.
Riding piggy-back on those dire statistics is the fact that self-harm as a result of bullying, in all its forms, is tracking right along with the spiking suicide rate.
Bullying is pervasive, especially among school-age youngsters. A decade ago, 32 percent of American teens reported some type of cyberbullying, and that percentage has risen steadily over the past 10 years. The National Crime Prevention Council puts the most recent number at 43 percent.
Here are a few tips from experts on what to tell your young student about bullying and how they can best defend themselves. This also works with adult bullying:
Treat others with respect, think before you act. If you’re the target of bullying, try asking the tormentor to stop, or just laugh it off, walk away and stay away from that person. If the bullying occurs online, follow the rules above about minding what you write and post, and don’t share your password, except with parents.
Keeping an adult — preferably a parent — in the loop about what’s happening in a kid’s world is crucial. If a child sees something online that makes them sad or scared, parents should let the child talk it out. Communication has incredible healing powers. If you see someone being bullied, stand up for them. Bullies are most often cowards, and can’t handle confrontation.
Most grownups these days are incredibly busy, but not too busy to protect your children. Even though we have chosen a magnificent place to live when it comes to good neighbors and community, every place has its undercurrent of tension and hostility. It’s just the way society has developed.
In the end, be the person who acts against the negativity and bullying that is causing so much harm.