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Take a stand

April 8, 2010 - Erin O'Neill

Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can hurt just as much. 

It seems lately there has been a lot of focus on the issue of child and teenage bullying. Maybe I'm hyper-aware of it because I work in the news media. Maybe because I am a parent. But what is wrong with our country when children resort to killing themselves to get away from taunts and teasing they have to endure on a daily basis?

I was inspired to write this blog by reporter Kate York's recent story titled Warren students learn about bullying and also by an episode of Dr. Phil that tackled the subject and really prompted me to take action.

Bullying impacts many people in many different ways. Some kids take the torment and let it roll off their backs. Some people succeed at getting even, although that's more often seen in Hollywood movies. Some get angry and lash out at their attackers or society as a whole. Some take to their blogs on a newspaper website to vent. Some, like Phoebe Prince and countless others, take their own lives.

It's also hard to tell what happens to victims of bullying as they grow older. Do they look back on the behavior as just "kids will be kids" or is there a part of their psyche that is permanently scarred and affects every facet of their lives, from their ability to make friends to their ability to keep a job?

Also, what happens to the bullies? Do they grow up to bully their wives, children co-workers and friends? Do they think that this behavior helps them to be successful? Do they become the Glenn Becks of the world? OK, low blow there. But bullying is just a form of intolerance, as far as I am concerned, and we are seeing that a lot right now - intolerance of gays, people of different religious beliefs, different races, different economic classes, different political beliefs. The key word: different.

Whether childhood and teenage bullying stems from insecurity and a desire to make oneself feel better by belittling others or egocentric jealousy, whatever it is, parents and the community as a whole need to take a stand and to get educated as to the root cause.

It's not very often that I make my political statements or expose my personal beliefs on this blog, but this is a topic I feel very strongly about.

My child will be entering the public school system soon - a lot sooner than I would like. School violence and bullying are two things that absolutely terrify me. I plan to be fully involved in my child's educational experience and I encourage other parents to do the same. Ask questions, know the school's policy on bullying, be proactive. And most importantly, teach your child that it's OK to be different and it's OK to speak out against bullying.


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