The Amanda Todd story, as noted in the guest editorial from the Penticton Western News on this page, has captured tremendous public and media attention.
It’s good that the issue of bullying, and in particular cyber-bullying, has again captured many peoples attention, because it is a pervasive one. It is not confined to children and teens, as much of the storyline in the media seems to indicate.
There are many instances of bullying on very important stages. It happens in Parliament, in the provincial legislature, at many council tables and at many, many workplaces. Hostile, insulting and demeaning behaviour is a way of life for many people — and there are thousands of victims.
One venue where bullying is available on an hourly basis is the television screen. Many shows, particularly reality shows, feature rude and abusive words and actions towards others. All this is done in the name of entertainment, but it sets a very bad example for impressionable people who watch it.
Cyber-bullying has become pervasive with the rise of the internet. Young people in particular seem to not fully understand how the words and photos they post go viral and cause damage on a much greater scale than in earlier generations. This is certainly what Amanda Todd was feeling, as cyber-bullying aimed at her simply intensified, even after she changed schools.
There are no simple answers. The internet isn’t going away. Rude and abusive behaviour is often learned, but when someone engages in this type of behaviour, it is very difficult for that person to change.
While bullying curricula are now standard at schools, bullying behaviour is best dealt with at home. From the time children are small, parents need to model good behaviour to them — in words and actions. They need to show them that it is unacceptable to call people names, make fun of their looks and post rude things about them online.
They also need to offer unconditional love and acceptance to their kids. Those who are bullied need to have immediate and ongoing support. This is hard to come by in schools, where bullies often engage in such behaviours to become popular. It is difficult to stand up to bullies in schools — even with support from principals and teachers.
Leadership on many fronts is needed to help curb bullying.