Modern Day Bullying; 24/7
Listening recently to a radio interview with a young teenager, who had been psychologically and systematically bullied at school using modern technology of the Internet and mobile telephone texting, it was appalling how easily a bully can now intrude into every aspect of their victim’s life. This victim had discovered a web site, about the victim, that the bully had set up and either to be one of the crowd or because of the anonymity the Internet provides, a huge number of people had added negative remarks which devastated the girl. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of constant negative comments knows that it is invasive and in the end the victim believes what is being said and their self esteem takes a nose dive..
The content of the interview was very distressing to hear and brought back memories of my childhood nearly forty years ago. Like many girls I was not physically bullied but suffered the angst of being excluded and belittled by friends’ and then included when it suited them. For me the safety and comfort of my home at the end of the day went a long way to diluting the effect of this bullying; my mother’s empathy and advice helped me to cope until I matured enough to recognize these people for the bullies they were. I cannot imagine the pain that must be involved when bullies have access to your email and mobile account, how do people cope when there is no hiding place and anonymity makes the most cowardly brave.
The interviewee had hidden the bullying from her mother, to protect her parent from the angst so it is vital for society to develop strategies that victims feel able to use without acerbating the bullying they receive.
Why aren’t schools able to set up text and email accounts to which all bullying messages could be forwarded by the victim? These bullies are leaving a written audit trail to use as evidence against them; this systematic abuse must be stopped before more victims commit suicide. The need to be included and part of the in crowd or at very least not the object of derision is very important to the majority of young people, still finding their identity and this need magnifies the effect of prolonged psychological bullying. Perhaps the increase in American teenage programs glorifying the beautiful in crowd’ and the geeky out crowd’ has led to an increase in the pressure to conform.
Perhaps modern grandparents with their access to computers and mobile telephones could act as a depository of the hateful emails and texts to encourage and support the victims to cope with the abuse and make it an issue that is shared rather than hidden. The easy access to electronic communication has played into the hands of cowardly bullies and society needs to use it against them and rob them of the protection anonymity, behind which they hide.
Young people need to be able to enter chat rooms, surf the web and text their peers without fear of abuse. Bullying robs the victim of self esteem, sense of safety and the chance to mature with the support of their peers; we all need to address this issue, old or young.