The bullying of children has become a major topic of conversation and concern. We know bullying occurs far too often and we know the terrible results and they are frightening. However, bullying is not confined to childhood; it is behavior that reflects the adult world.
Bullying has Become Increasingly Acceptable by Adults
We are surrounded by examples of bullying at all levels of society, and it is a mistake to blame children for this terrible practice. Adults are guilty, too. Bullying is the art of elevating the self by making others appear to be inferior or unacceptable. The bully determines what is inferior and what is unacceptable.
The finer points of bullying and the payoff for it is learned from the adult world:
- Reality TV shows were initially presented as a new form of entertainment where bullying and insulting fellow performers was an important component of the script. The shock value of rude-and-crude was necessary because there was, and still is, little in the way of a plot or professional acting in a reality show. The shock value is long gone now and it is simply a question of how bad and how rude the performers can be.
- Politicians nastily and publically denounce and insult other politicians. This behavior was once considered unacceptable for those in public office, but it began to be practiced with increasing frequency and is now such routine behavior, it is expected and accepted.
- TV shows, under the guise of counseling their guests, relish exposing private problems and disgracing the people who appear on these shows seeking guidance or justice.
- People in show business—actors, musicians, etc.—and models and sports figures must cope with terrible intrusions into their private lives, and are publically humiliated at every possible opportunity. The clothes they wear, what they say, where they live, and whom they date and marry and what they look like at all times have become as important to audiences as their performance ability or their sport prowess.
People, in general, seem to believe they have a right to know every detail about public figures and delight in hearing that the rich and the famous are guilty of bad judgment and behavior, and don’t always look beautiful. The cry of “tell us more and tell us often” is reflected in the popularity of “tell-all” stories, publications, and TV shows. There is lots of money to be made in bullying.
Interestingly, the standards of acceptable behavior have lowered so much over time that politicians whose characters need to be publicized and examined can now run for the office of the President of the United States in spite of a background of scandalous conduct and current manners that would have been universally condemned by the USA 20 to 30 years ago. (We’ve come a long way, baby.)
The Results of Bullying are Frightening
The lowering of public standards has resulted in a rise of bullying behaviors across all levels of society plus the Internet, and anyone can become a target:
- Teenagers quit school, turn to destructive behaviors, and even commit suicide because of bullying in high schools, colleges, universities, and online.
- Adults sell their homes and move, or change jobs and even careers when they can’t stop the bullying in their workplaces or neighborhoods.
- Children refuse to work at school, quit sports, reject participating in activities, become sullen and withdrawn, and may experience physical symptoms when subjected to bullying.
“Just lighten up” and “Kids will be kids” are still offered as reasons for the acceptance of behavior that would have been considered inexcusable a few years ago. The other extreme is an over-reaction by those who are determined to control bullying with lawsuits brought against children and adults for nothing more than silliness or carelessness. However, with lines so flexible, it’s hard to find a happy medium. Is it a joke? Is it an insult?
What We Can Do To Mitigate Bullying
We must continue talking about the bullying problem and refuse to contribute to it:
- Limit the exposure of our children to TV shows that showcase bullying techniques.
- Refuse to buy the magazines and watch the programs that snipe and sneer at people in public life for being caught unprepared by cameras and by intrusions into their privacy.
- Monitor our children’s use of the Internet and cell phones, and see that they are educated about all forms of bullying and how to lessen their chances of being targeted.
- Teach our children to feel empathy for others.
Teasing, jokes, and good-humored sarcasm should not be taken too seriously. Make sure that you know how to laugh at yourself and teach your children to laugh, too—even at jokes about themselves. Laughter is often the best defense against bullying.
If it doesn’t help, take action and raise awareness. Bullying isn’t the fault of those other guys—it’s a problem to which many of us contribute. It has to stop.
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