Teach kids not to be bul­lies

The Buffalo News - - NEXT - By PEYTON MCCONVILLE Ne Xt Cor re s pon­dent Peyton McConville is a ju­nior at Lan­caster High School.

“Kids will be kids.” “She’s just jeal­ous.” Don’t let them get to you.” When did we start mak­ing ex­cuses for the cru­elty that is ac­cepted as “nor­mal” in mid­dle and high school?

Ev­ery­one knows the pop­u­lar movie “Mean Girls.” An av­er­age teenager gets bul­lied into be­com­ing like all the other “mean girls” and is fi­nally ac­cepted as one of them, but of course not with­out con­stant ha­rass­ment and in­sults along the way.

When did it be­come not only ac­cept­able, but hu­mor­ous to treat others poorly?

“Peo­ple find it funny be­cause they are of­ten the ones most emo­tion­ally dam­aged,” said Brooke Bla­how­icz, a ju­nior at Depew High School. “I think they are un­sure how to deal with their emo­tions and usu­ally have low self­es­teem and con­fi­dence ini­tially.”

Jodi Cole­man has been a high school coun­selor for 15 years. She says that there are a num­ber of rea­sons why peo­ple en­gage in bul­ly­ing be­hav­ior.

“Some may cope by be­ing cruel be­cause they are lack­ing skills to man­age peer pres­sure, in­fe­ri­or­ity, anger or envy,” she said. “Per­haps they, too, have been bul­lied, or it was in an ef­fort to gain pop­u­lar­ity.”

But bul­ly­ing is no longer lim­ited to push­ing some­one into a locker or steal­ing a scrawny fresh­man’s lunch money.

It is not so much fear of phys­i­cal ha­rass­ment but more so the words and in­sults that may come the vic­tim’s way. They fear iso­la­tion be­cause others don’t want to en­dure the same ha­rass­ment by stand­ing up for them.

Many stu­dents have ad­mit­ted to be­ing sent anony­mous threats on­line or over the phone, be­ing fol­lowed around school by a group of stu­dents shout­ing in­sults at them, and even be­ing en­cour­aged to kill them­selves.

“There were some days I was afraid to get out of bed and go to school to face these kids,” one stu­dent vic­tim said.

Bul­ly­ing has changed dras­ti­cally over the past decade. Many stu­dents agree that so­cial me­dia is where the ma­jor­ity of bul­ly­ing oc­curs to­day and have wit­nessed it them­selves.

“Be­cause peo­ple feel fear­less when they bully through so­cial me­dia, there may be many that would never make the same hurt­ful com­ments in per­son,” Cole­man said.

So what kind of ad­vice can be of­fered to vic­tims of bul­ly­ing?

“Do not hide it, do not be em­bar­rassed and keep it a se­cret. Stand up for your­self and others,” said Leah Richter, a sopho­more at Lan­caster High School. “It will not stop un­less we speak up.”

“If a stu­dent feels they are be­ing bul­lied, there are many peo­ple avail­able to help,” Cole­man said. “Shar­ing with a par­ent, po­lice of­fi­cer, teacher, coun­selor, ad­min­is­tra­tor or fam­ily friend, would be an ex­cel­lent way to ask for help.”

As a so­ci­ety, we are aware of the large prob­lem bul­ly­ing is in to­day’s school cul­ture.

Why are we fo­cus­ing on teach­ing kids how to han­dle the ef­fects of bul­ly­ing rather than teach­ing them not to bully?

Do we re­ally want our kids to be a gen­er­a­tion where kind­ness and com­pas­sion are ab­sent and in­ter­act­ing dis­cour­te­ously with one an­other is ac­cepted as the norm?

Let’s fo­cus on teach­ing kids to be the peo­ple we want to see more of in the world.

“Do not hide it, do not be em­bar­rassed and keep it a se­cret. Stand up for your­self and others. It will not stop un­less we speak up.” Leah Richter, sopho­more, Lan­caster High School

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