For the past several years I’ve chosen a cause very close to my heart to take on and make a difference in. I want to stop bullying and in fact, I want to take up the cause of not just stopping bullying, but violence all together. Lofty dream? Sure. Worth the fight? Absolutely. Bullying, domestic violence, violence against women, hate crimes, and rape all have one thing in common. They are a belief by a perpetrator that they have the right to harm, control, abuse, and destroy another human being. October is Bullying Awareness Month. It’s also Domestic Violence Awareness month. Blue and Purple. Colors that represent the cause, that represent the hope for peace. Put blue and purple together and you could even say it represents the colors of a bruise…a bruise of the soul.
By now, most people realize that bullying is no longer a childhood game that takes place only on the playground. Bullying is not the same as it was when we were growing up in the 50’s or even the 90’s and anyone who believes that it is grossly mistaken and highly naive. In the past ten years we have seen the headlines of bullying read like a horror film.
The reality is this. Bullying is not the epidemic of a generation, as much as it’s the result of a world that changed very fast, putting a generation of teachers and parents on the constant defense. In just a little over a decade, our children have seen unparalleled amounts of change in the way they view media, the way they are taught, and the access they have to the world around them. In education alone, standardized tests have swept the nation, cutting time for much needed physical education, music, and art…all activities that teach skills of critical thinking and negotiation. The teacher’s ability to build necessary relationships with the students has taken a back seat to the culture of the test. School Choice gave rise to the ability for children to move from school to school, year after year, leaving the much needed bonds of childhood friends necessary for healthy social and emotional development behind. Technology and our inability as a society to keep up with the speed of change, has opened the door to children who are exposed to violence and sex in unprecedented amounts. The ability for children to participate in their own exploitation is enough to send shivers down the spine of any parent.
The key to it all is three-fold. We must first, as adults, recognize that bullying has changed not in definition, but in the means by which it is achieved. In this generation of bullies, technology takes center stage as children are faced with not just one or two bullies, but possibly thousands. In the world of cyberbullying, “Revenge Porn” is a new form of humiliation, as sexually based photos are passed from person to person in an initial fit of adolescent anger. As adults, we must recognize that cyberbullying can take place through texting, social media, and email. Children now have access to camera’s that in an instance of manipulation, can create absolute chaos. There are now laws that can level charges on a minor for sexting or possessing nude or partially nude photos of another minor. In our day, we had to take a Polaroid of ourselves and then physically hand it to someone if we wanted to participate in our own exploitation. Those days no longer exist.