I was killing sometime online tonight (like I always do) and I came across a video a friend shared on Facebook called Whats goin on… The video, which you can see below tells the story of Jonah, a boy who now in the eighth grade has been bullied almost daily since he was in the first grade. He began cutting in second grade, and he now has scars covering much of his upper body.
As I watched the video I was almost brought to tears. As a father of two four year olds that are nearing school age, I worry about the world they are entering. I worry that the words of some bully could be enough to take them from me through suicide or some other terrible act, and the thought of that terrifies me. As I went to share the video on Facebook I wrote how sad the video was and began to say, “WTF is wrong with the world today? Bullying wasn’t like this when I was a kid”. But then I stopped for a moment, and I began writing this blog post.
The Shift in Bullying
Has bullying really gotten worse since I was growing up in the 80′s and 90′s, or has the social medium and media attention simply given those who have been bullied a louder voice, which leads us to believe it’s worse? As I write this I remember a time when I was in junior high when I found myself curled up in a ball bawling in the middle of the street because a group of people I grew up with and called “friends” had bullied me to a breaking point. To a point where I was so upset that all I could do was break down. I don’t remember what was said, or what happened leading up to that, but I remember the breaking point. I am 31, and I can still remember that point vividly. It’s not the words, or the actions that stick with you, it’s the pain.
So I ask again. Has it really gotten worse?
The Societal Crossroads
I then started to thing about other factors. Are kids these days more sensitive? Are kids these days meaner? If for some reason it has gotten worse, what’s made it worse? I started to look at the big picture and one thing in particular stood out.
Our society is at a crossroads right now. There is a movement fighting for equal rights for homosexuals and with it more and more of society is letting people young and old know that it’s ok to be gay. Yet on the other hand there is a large sect of Americans that are against this. They believe marriage is a religious right and not a human right. They believe that homosexuality is a sin, an abomination. Sometimes these beliefs are so hard coded into their being that they fuel hate and anger. Could this crossroads be the cause of an increase in bullying, if it is in fact worse?
In Jonah’s video he holds up cards that say, “A lot of people hate me…I don’t know why…But I guess I do. Cuz I kinda hate me too…Gay. Fag. Dick. Douche. Homo. Asshole…” Jonah doesn’t state whether or not he is homosexual, but you’ll notice that three of the six insults listed on the card are slang for homosexuals. Could the epidemic of hatred against homosexuals be fueling even more bullying? Could many of our youth be getting targeted as homosexuals even if they aren’t, and in turn the bullying is in fact worse and therefore more widespread? It’s possible.
Whats Goin On…
What is going on? Jonah asks a great question, and right now it’s hard to tell. Are things getting worse for our youth or has technology simply given them a place to be heard? I like the think it’s the latter. At least then I have hope that there is in fact some hope for these kids. Maybe all they need is to be heard. Maybe all they need is a community to tell them it gets better. Jonah has received an outcry of support in his YouTube comments, but is that enough? I can’t help but think that if he was being bullied to the degree he made it sound that this ability to share his feelings, cry on camera, and try and show his strength would only set him up for more ridicule and bullying. Does technology empower him, or endanger him? I really don’t know.
What I do know is that whether it’s worse, or the same as when I was growing up, or even when my parents were growing up we have to teach our children to rise above it. As parents we must be supportive and instill confidence in our children at a much younger age. We must not be judgmental and now more than ever you need an honestly policy with your kids that instills a relationship of trust so that if they get to a breaking point they know they can come to you if needed. Because if they can’t reach out to you, they may be reaching out to the knife, the razor blade, or worse a gun.