By Kevin Rudden Staff Reporter/Columnist
June 11, 2010
I've attended several meetings over the past year devoted to the topic of bullying and am trying to get my thoughts together why it's such a big issue these days. [back]
Bullying, as people of my generation know it, usually involved someone of a larger size "picking on" – whether physically or mentally – someone of a smaller size. It happened more than once, and the bully left a lasting impression.
If you don't believe that last part, try this experiment. First, ask anyone over 50 if they remember themselves or anyone else they went to school with getting bullied. If the answer is "yes," next ask them to name the bully and the victim. In most cases, you'll get both names – even 50, 60 or 70 years after the incidents took place.
Today, the weapon of choice is more than name-calling, shoving, "cutting" (as in no longer speaking), or schoolyard fisticuffs. It's the Internet, through the instrument known as a cell phone and the method known as texting. These things are ubiquitous because we – that is, adults – gave them to our kids. Ever see a young person who is not texting?
At one discussion on bullying I sat through, it was suggested that so many complaints about bullying are occurring because younger kids don't know how to socialize or talk to each other anymore. Oh, they text each other, but they don't know how to talk to teach other in person. And so, a refusal to eat lunch together one day is construed as bullying.
That got me to thinking. I know that I have more than 100 friends on my Facebook page. But, I also know that – if I really, really need help in my life – there are about five non-family members I could turn to and receive it unconditionally. There is a difference between an on-line friend and a true friend.
But, how does a middle school or high school student realize that? And, how does he or she react to a hundred texts saying things about them? Teens simply don't have the same coping skills as do adults.
I do know that we react negatively to news of teens across the state taking their own lives as a result of being bullied. But, I also question how no one – kids or adults – could see this happening or intervene to make it stop.
Sometimes, it seems, we need parents who actually parent (instead of trying to be their kids' friends) more than another state law. And, I have to believe that deep down, somewhere within these kids who are accused of bullying, they had to know what they were doing was wrong. I have to believe that or give up hope about our future generations of adults.
I like Natick School Superintendent Peter Sanchioni's advice to kids when they see another being bullied: "Aid the person. Try to stop the bully. Go tell an adult." I hope kids listen to him. I hope adults listen when kids tell them.