Bullying in any form in any place is nasty, cruel, often insidious and sometimes fatal for the recipient. I am totally in favour of a real conversation taking place; in the media, in our homes and particularly in our schools. As a counsellor in a large secondary school, I see on a daily basis the results of all forms of bullying, sometimes I am sad to say, even in the staffroom.
The effect on a teenager (and of course younger kids) is often enough to block development and learning. Bullying can often lead to depression and at worst suicidal thoughts and actual attempts. We have a chance to think, plan and make some differences. For that to happen, the debate needs to be wide, testing and to have an end-point where we actually put into place some strategies that work. We will make mistakes along the way, but we can learn from those.
There are some schools who claim that they have cut the incidences and seriousness of bullying right down. Let’s look at what they have done. We don’t always need to reinvent the wheel, so if something works we need to promulgate that process.
Cyber bullying has been taking centre stage for quite some time. That involves texting, cell phone calls, the use of other social media and God alone knows what is around the corner in this filed.
The Government is keen to have a conversation about cyber bullying and to pass laws with ‘teeth’ to expose, punish and limit the damage done through cyber bullying. I applaud them for this. I do not know how technology can be used to turn the tide, but if it exists then it is time we used it. Schools will need to be part of that unrolling of technology to make our places of study safer, but it has to be acknowledged that schools are the places where kids go for only 6-7 hours a day.
Kids say and are often supported by parents in that they cannot operate without cell phones. I sort of know that feeling. The need to feel ‘connected’ is hard to ignore.
What ‘filtering technology’ would look like is beyond me, but if that is the price we have to pay to keep kids safe form messaging at least during school time, then that is what we pay. How we deal with the other hours of the day is also crucial.
Kids, adults—we all have to look at the way we view bullying and come up with a new culture--- one that shuns all forms of bullying, be it physical, emotional or technologically based. We have an enormous game changing challenge on our hands. Let’s start the debate. We don’t need to hurry, because bullying has been with us forever.