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Bullying has been a growing concern nationwide, especially with the latest stories about the dire and sometimes fatal effects of bullying. It is an issue that should not be overlooked. Most children and teenagers have been the victim of bullying at least once in their lives or have experienced it as a bystander. The constant teasing and demoralization can cause kids to feel miserable, worthless, and unable to change their situation. Bullying can even lead to suicide.
However, bullying does not have to reduce your feeling of self-worth. It is important for children and teenagers to rise above the cruel words and taunts. By learning to embrace our identities, seeking support from family and friends, and building the confidence to stand up to bullies, we can combat bullying once and for all.
Bullying comes in many forms and usually varies based on a child’s age. Regardless of what form bullying comes in, bullies usually tend to pick on those who are different. They are motivated by their own insecurities, fears, and jealousy. Their goal is to isolate their victim, diminish that person’s self-esteem, and elevate themselves. Many times, bullying results from a power struggle between kids. Sometimes, good-natured teasing can intensify into bullying and harassment.
When I was in elementary school, typical bullying usually consisted of name-calling paired with hurtful insults. Occasionally, physical violence would occur, but verbal bullying was most prevalent.
Personally, I was bullied and teased as a “goody-two-shoes.” I rarely got into trouble and was always following directions and helping the teacher out. Looking back, I guess I was probably “that annoying kid.” Nevertheless, I did not deserve the harassment I received for being a “teacher’s pet.” Kids in my class would pick on me, egging me on to break the rules. I was reduced to tears on several occasions.
Aggravated by the bullying, I told my parents. I quickly realized how valuable it was to tell someone. Fortunately, my experience did not escalate, but telling an adult is still the best way to tackle bullying, especially for younger children. Adults need to play a part in helping children cope with their situation and understand that they are loved and special. In elementary school, adult intervention might even stop the bullying. After I told my parents about my situation, they not only comforted me, but also spoke to the teacher, who diffused the situation.
In middle school and high school, bullying often takes on a crueler form. As kids get older, their insults become more creative. In high school, I have been bullied a few times because of my petite size. Some of the short jokes include “Hey, hobbit” and “Don’t you qualify as a midget?” The persistent short jokes really hit me.
Again, I told my parents. This time, they helped me in a different way. My mother, who is also very short, shared with me her experiences with bullying. It was very relatable and definitely comforted me. Finding friends and family who have gone through the same hardships can make you feel so much better, and it also helps you realize that you are not alone. My mother promised that things do get better.
Yet, from my own experiences, older bullies have cunningly mastered how to use our social vulnerabilities against us. In middle school and especially in high school, one of the greatest fears for a teenager is not fitting in. The idea of being isolated — without any friends — is terrifying. Bullies often use this to their advantage, ignoring a victim, leaving him out of social activities, or treating him differently.
Worst of all, with the advent of new technologies and social networking, cyberbullying is often the most common vehicle for social isolation. There is less accountability online and cyberbullying can easily go undetected. It also spreads very quickly. One of my friends was cyberbullied by some of my other friends. They would not allow him to join Facebook groups and often left him out of events. Behind his back, they would gossip online and insult him. He was very upset and hurt. Eventually, I stood up for him and explained to my friends that their comments and behavior were insensitive. Shortly afterwards, the bullying stopped.
From what I have learned over the years, one of the best ways to combat bullying is by embracing who you are. If you love yourself, it is harder for others to tear you down. You become impervious to their mean words. When it comes to my height or being a “teacher’s pet,” I have come to accept that this is part of my identity and my personality. This is who I am, and I am proud of it. My improved self-esteem has certainly derailed most bullies. Even when the teasing does occur, it does not bother me anymore.
Bullying is not just a phase of life or a rite of passage we all must experience. It is a grave issue. In a perfect world, we could all wave our magic wands and eradicate bullying from the face of the planet. Unfortunately, it is much more complicated than that, and ending bullying is still a dream and a wish. We need support from all adults to help kids deal with this common hardship, whether it is providing comfort to a victim, actively stopping bullying in schools, or monitoring online activity. However, arming ourselves with the tools to combat and cope with bullying is a must, one that we can all strive for today.
Aglaia Ho is a 17-year-old student from Queens who enjoys writing. Her work has been published in Creative Kids, Skipping Stones, Daily News/Children’s Pressline, and The State of the Wild.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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