The next season of Family Matters will dedicate an episode to the issue of bullying. Thousands of children and teens are victimized every day, resulting in severe long-term psychological effects for many of these kids. With the advent of the internet, bullying is taking new fronts, making it even harder for people to escape and deal with bullying. Some high-profile stories, such as Amanda Todd’s suicide last year, demonstrate how serious of a problem bullying is, challenge us about what we think of bullying, and push us to combat what is a serious plague in our society.
The website www.bullying.org provides some background information and statistics on bullying. They define bullying as when a person or group tries to hurt or control another person in a harmful way. Most experts agree that bullying consists of a difference in power between the bully and victim, and that hurtful behaviour is repeated and intentional. People bully for a variety of reasons, including to feel superior, to get attention, to become popular or fit in. Often people who bully have insecurities, fears, and personal issues, and bully to cope with these issues. Statistics suggest that people who have childhood bullied tend to have more criminal convictions, alcoholism, antisocial personality disorders and need for mental health services later in life. Bullies usually don’t understand why their behaviour is wrong or how it makes the other person feel. This makes it difficult to deal with a bully, especially without the support of anyone else.
The internet has made it difficult for people to walk away from a bully. Amanda Todd created a YouTube video telling her story of her struggle with bullying. In short, a bully followed her through Facebook, contacting her friends disseminating a humiliating topless photo of her. Being ostracized by her ex-friends and classmates, Amanda started suffering from anxiety, depression, and panic disorder. When her family moved to new homes and she started at new schools, the bully contacted her new classmates through Facebook and again disseminated the photo. No matter where she went she was ostracized and bullied by her new classmates. After a group attacked her while shouting insults and punching her to the ground, Amanda attempted suicide by drinking bleach. After that, many abusive insults and comments about her failed suicide attempt were posted on Facebook. Despite moving to new schools, her past followed her; her topless photo and the abusive comments found their way through social networking sites to her new peers, resulting in further abuse and ostracism. On October 10, 2012, Amanda was found hanged at her own home.
Amanda’s story demonstrates how much social networking sites can impact people’s lives. Most teens have an account on many different social networking sites, the most dominant being Facebook. Even if someone does not have an account, they most likely are in many photos and comments of other teens. Teens communicate and socialize on these sites daily, so anything posted on them is very quickly disseminated among an enormous amount of people. The sites may not increase the amount of bullying instances there are, but they allow bullying to operate in a new environment, one with a very large audience.
The fight against bullying is not an easy one. Teaching our youth why bullying is so wrong is a cause many organizations are pursuing. Many hope that these attempts to instil values of mutual respect, dignity, and compassion will either prevent bullying, or help those exposed to it. These organizations can only reach so far, so everyone needs to put in the effort to ensure these values are promoted and upheld among our friends and family. Without that effort, the atrocious effects of bullying will continue to unnecessarily harm thousands of kids every day.