Let’s put an end to bullying
November is National Crime Prevention and Community Safety month, and the Canada Safety Council challenges all Canadians to join in the fight to put an end to bullying.
Bullying is a social relationship where an individual repeatedly harms another individual, through physical, verbal and/or psychological means. Victims of bullying can experience withdrawal, anxiety and diminished performance in all areas of life.
Bullying doesn’t just take place in the school yard; it can happen at home, in the workplace, and even online. Bullying is a social issue that affects the whole community, not just the bully and the victim. Bullying poisons the social environment for everyone, has long-term consequences for the bully and the victim, and is a factor in suicides and violent incidents.
Bullies are equally likely to be boys or girls, men or women. Boys are more likely to be physically aggressive, such as hitting and kicking, whereas girls are more likely to be verbally aggressive when they bully, for example, posting harmful comments on a Facebook page. Extortion, intimidation and destruction of property are all part of the behavior pattern.
Adults are essential in creating healthy relationships for children, and must provide positive, encouraging environments as children grow. Both parents and educators are role models and must lead by example and avoid using power aggressively. As parents and educators, the most important role in breaking the bullying cycle is to help children learn empathy by looking for opportunities to teach kindness, tolerance, and acceptance to those who may be different than them.
Attitudes and views develop in the home. Parents and guardians need to be role models and set a good example for their children. Often parents’ views and actions are picked up and mimicked. By representing stereotypical or harmful views and actions in the home, it can lead to children having those views, or performing those actions, outside of the home.
There are also long-term costs to society from bullying behaviour. As bullies grow up, they may transfer their abuse of power to other forms of harassment, violence, or abuse, and they may become bullies in the workplace or their home. Boys who were bullies in elementary school are more likely to have criminal convictions by the time they are in their 20s. That is why it is essential to correct and change behaviour at a young age. Bullies must be held accountable for their actions. Much of the onus is often placed on the victim of bullying; having them change their daily routines and behaviour, but the bully must change their behaviour as well. Bullies and their accomplices need to understand the harm they cause and that their behavior will not be tolerated. They can change.
Schoolyard bullying is often compared to workplace bullying. Both types represent a grab for control and exercise power through the humiliation of the target. School bullies, if reinforced by cheering classmates, fearful teachers, or ignoring administrators, grow up to be dominating adults. When they join the work force, they continue to bully others.
Preventing workplace bullying before it begins is crucial. Through awareness and education, prevention is possible. With knowledge, chances increase that the bully becomes aware of what his or her actions are doing, the victims know where they can go for help, and bystanders learn that it is not acceptable to turn a blind eye. Bringing this issue to the forefront of people’s minds will go a long way toward dealing with the problem.
Cyber bullying is also omnipresent in today’s society, and it does not just affect children and adolescents. Cyber bullying is present on Facebook – in hurtful comments on a picture; through text messages – by spreading malicious rumours through mass text; on online news sites – when people post harmful comments on news articles, diverting from the point of the article. Cyber bullying must be treated and looked at as being as harmful as face-to-face bullying. The effects can be just as damaging.
All Canadians need to work together to put an end to bullying no matter what age you are. As a parent, teach your children to be open and accepting of others. As an educator, teach students about the harmful effects of bullying, and be vigilant in intercepting bully behaviour. As a peer or colleague, report harmful behaviour and don’t encourage bully behaviour by becoming a bystander.
If you are a victim of bullying, remember that it is NOT your fault! Nothing is wrong with you. You don’t deserve to be bullied. Get involved in something positive, and surround yourself with people who encourage you and make you feel accepted. Doing something that you enjoy will help give you confidence and make you feel good about yourself.
For children who want to talk to someone about bullying, call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or visit their website at www.kidshelpphone.ca.
For more information on various forms of bullying, visit the Canada Safety Council website at www.canadasafetycouncil.org.
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