“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me…”
Words can be just as detrimental and damaging as a fist could be.
I remember when I was a little girl, around the same age as my daughter is now which is seven, and was bullied every day from a boy in my class taunting me because I chose to spend most of my free playtime reading and was often considered a teacher’s pet. He said mean words that, as a little girl, affected me immensely. They stung like bee stings, the after-effects causing missed days of school because I just couldn’t stand his pestering, lack of appetite, tear-stained pillow cases and the beginnings of social anxiety. From an outsiders perspective, everyone thought I was okay. I still had close friends, laughed and smiled often, was considered a social little butterfly because I was rather chatty (when I wanted to be) and my parents only received nothing but excellent report cards and feedback from my teachers. I was fine. Or so everyone thought.
It got to the point where I finally had to tell my parents, and thankfully the bullying was put to a halt thanks to the swift actions of my parents and the teacher and principal.
At 13, I became a victim of bullying again, this time from a girl from the same grade that just decided she didn’t like me. I was quite popular; lots of friends and I was academically studious. I was on the opposite of the typical bullying prey spectrum.
This girl had it in for me and wanted to make my life miserable. She was tough and rough and it got to the point where I was so afraid to see her in fear that she would want to hurt me physically.
It was different this time around than when I was seven.
I didn’t want to tell my parents. I wasn’t as confident in them doing anything that could really stop this girl from harming me. And I thought that if I did say something to an adult, she may get even more angry and do something right after.
This is how my close friends felt too.
They comforted me, tried to fight back verbally at times to defend me (which only made things more intense) but never said anything to a trusted adult that would be best to handle the situation in a mature manner.
My parents never really spoke to me about bullying. In fact, my siblings and I were sort of sheltered in a world where our parents provided us the best of what they could because they just wanted us to be the best we could be and didn’t think bullying would ever really be an issue that we would have to face.
They were (and still are) the most amazing and supportive, really. But what was missing, was more conversation around more serious topics such as bullying. They didn’t talk about these things because they felt they didn’t need to. They just intervened when they had to. And that’s often the case.
Nowadays, things are worse.
In a digital world where The Plastics (From Mean Girls movie) and Blair Waldorf’s (from Gossip Girl) are considered funny and entertaining, and just about every child from ages 12 and up now own their very own smartphone and texting has replaced true phone calls and face time, cyber-bullying is on the rise and an increasingly infectious and vile plague.
And what’s scarier is cyber-bullying is 24-7.
There’s no place for someone to hide, the bully can be anonymous, it’s much harder to empathize with the target because you can’t see them face-to-face and there are no geographical locations or limits.
Kids, Youth and Teens are not as comfortable to open up to an adult about it, and neither are their friends/bystanders.
My daughter is now seven and has been a victim of bullying on her school bus, that only after my husband and I initiated deeper conversation to see how she’s doing in school, did we find out.
She didn’t tell us right away. In fact, it has been going on since the end of last year.
She’s seven and the bully was an older, bigger boy on the bus that felt satisfaction in “proving” his coolness and toughness by picking on a younger, smaller 2nd grader on his bus.
What’s unsettling, is how much she enjoys her screen time now. She’s starting to be introduced to the online world and the fun in texting and and face-booking (no, she does not have her own Facebook account nor does she own a phone, but does text and facebook under her parents accounts with her cousins).
I can’t even imagine the pressure and intensity of the digital world for tweens and teens nowadays. It’s a rough time in a persons life. Peer pressure is high, you’re at stages where you’re developing and trying to discover who you are, school work increases, you start dating, you have so many questions yet you always think you know the answers… it’s a world I often miss but also glad it’s over at the same time.
Early education is critical and providing the resources and tools our children need, and also that we need as parents, to better understand how we can prevent cyber-bullying (and any bullying for that matter) is imperative.
Which is why I’m so thankful for the services offered through my telco provider, TELUS, with TELUS WISE – a trusted source to help keep families and communites safer featuring educational tools and resources around Internet and Smartphone safety including cyberbullying.
Learn more about TELUS wise here.
TELUS WISE partnered with PREVNet and MediaSmarts this year to conduct a national survey of 800 youth ages 12–18, to learn more about their attitudes and experiences as witnesses to electronic bullying and the factors that influence whether or not they intervene.
Adults, what’s alarming about these findings is the role that we play and the lack of proper intervention.
- 33% of youth said they do not intervene in cyberbullying situations because they do not believe adults give advice that helps.
- 43% said they do not intervene because they believe talking to parents and teachers will change nothing;
- However, youth’s top-rated intervention strategies involved talking to an adult
Here are more substantial key insights:
- 42% of youth said they have been cyber-bullied while 60% said they had witnessed others being cyber-bullied
- 71% of those who saw cyber-bullying did something to intervene at least once
- 90% of youth said they would intervene if their family member were the target of cyberbullying while 37% would intervene for someone they do not know personally
It is a sigh of a relief seeing the bigger positive percentages in this but it’s also a big wake-up call to me as I’m sure it will be for you as a parent, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, a teacher, a neighbour, etc.
As adults, we need to be provided with the right tools and resources to empower our youth to stand up to any form of bullying.
Check out this handy infographic that visually outlines the TELUS WISE report’s key findings (I found this super informative and helpful!) here.
Visit telus.com/wise to download more family-friendly bullying resources and access the full report here.
Before my daughter went to bed last week, I tucked her in and she said this to me, “Mommy, if someone is not nice to me or not nice to my friends, should I tell you right away?”
I nodded and replied, “Yes, please. I would very much like for you to tell me. Don’t ever be afraid to tell me anything.”
“But what if I was the one who did something mean to someone. Can I still tell you?”
I paused for a few seconds, taken aback at this unexpected question. I didn’t expect it because I would never think of my child to be the bully, ever. She’s a sweetheart. And more so because she was a victim herself and there’s no way she would choose to be one.
It got me thinking.
It is important to remember that children who bully are still children. They are acting that way for a reason, and they, too, need help and guidance from adults.
“Yes. I hope you never do and remember to be a friend. Just remember this: How would you feel if what you’re saying to or about someone is being said to you?”
“Yeah, taste your words before you spit them out.”
“Okay so you know the deal. (Laughter) Where’d you get that from?”
Whoever said too much TV is bad for you may have been a little misguided.
“Well, that’s pretty awesome. Good night, sweetie. Proud of you.”
“Thanks, mommy. Proud of you too.”
This girl always knows what to say, doesn’t she? 🙂
How do you talk to your kids about cyber-bullying?
And what are you thoughts on the TELUS WISE Online peer intervention study findings?