My son, who is a rather sensitive soul, was physically bullied and verbally abused at his previous school. The perpetrators were not expelled. They were kept in for one break and reprimanded. This was not their first offense. My son, as a result, stayed in at break times and spent his time in the library. Thankfully his love of reading, drama and music were able to grow here – he plays the piano and violin and sings in the choir.
The reality is, we can still mostly deal with this type of bullying because it is visible. This type of bullying has been around for decades. Fifty years ago a child was told to fight back. Today children are told to have the verbal prowess to diplomatically talk their way out of situations. To stand up for themselves. To be heard. This is good advice, but today, bullying often takes a new, less obvious and digital form. Today’s bullies not only pose physical and verbal threats to their victims, but cyber attacks are becoming more prevalent. Mobile devices have given kids easy access to take embarrassing photos or videos and post them to the internet instantaneously, to wreak havoc on social networks by verbally humiliating their victims, send cruel spam messages to their target victims via email and sms. Like physical bullying, this can send these kids into a spiral of depression and social segregation.
In extreme cases, this action can lead to suicide. The suicide in September this year of Jamey Rodemeyer, is the latest tragic example of what cyber bullying can lead to. His friends described Jamey as caring and friendly and his death has sparked various anti-bullying campaigns with police opening a criminal investigation into the suicide death. Celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga have also become involved in the campaigns to stop bullying and cyber-bullying, with Lady Gaga coming to the forefront on the situation via twitter: “Bullying must become illegal. It is a hate crime,” she tweeted. See her tribute to Jamey here. Jamey is only one of many who have taken his life due to unnecessary cyber bullying.
Parents need to teach their kids not to bully and if they are bullied how to cope. Governments, schools, parents, teachers and students need to focus on educating themselves and others about bullying – including cyber bullying. To be aware of the attitudes of themselves and their children towards people that are different to themselves and to be more accepting. To take a stand against those that do the bullying. To start anti-bullying campaigns and to follow through.
In Qatar research has shown that approximately half of teens are experiencing some form of cyber bullying. To create awareness of the situation ictQATAR aired an anti-bullying video in the fall of this year. This video shares some ways on how to curb the number of school children being harassed via mobile phones, online social networks, blogs and email.
Let’s all stand together and try and make a difference.