Over the past few years, bullying has nearly become a swear word. Being labeled as a bully nowadays is comparable to being called a thief, or even a murderer. There have been way too many bullying-related suicides making news headlines – and what’s more disturbing is that the parents of the bullies are often involved in the act as well. But I can’t help but remember my own younger days and dealing with my own bullies – perhaps it’s my own personality, but I was never bullied to the point of considering ending my own life. Come to think of it, I never even brought my bullying troubles home with me. I guess, in a way, the schoolyard was our equivalent of Las Vegas: what happens there, stays there.
There was always a bully or two in my classes growing up – usually a little slower than the rest of the class, not to mention a lot smellier. And for that reason, the rest of the class – hell, even the teacher – knew why they were the way they were. Sure, there may have been some pushing and shoving, a “stupid” here and an “ugly” there, but the intent was never malicious. We were kids – trying to entertain ourselves and make the school day go by a little faster.
But now we’re in a different day and age – kids have way more access to one another than we ever did when I was that age. They’re also disclosing a lot more about themselves online, making the ammunition for bullying much easier to access. Kids post embarrassing pictures, slanderous status updates, rude tweets, etc. Even with all of this, I find myself asking, are kids too sensitive these days?
I looked to my parents to answer part of this question; when I was younger and had an issue with a bully (using the term loosely), my parents would tell me to confront him. They’d advise me against physical confrontation, but made sure to know that if he hit me, that I was well within my rights to hit him right back. As flawed as that may have been, my parents equipped me with basic survival skills and made sure I knew there was nothing wrong with standing up for yourself. Fast-forward 10 years later, when my parents are having the same discussion with my little brother, but singing a different tune. Instead of encouraging him to defend himself, like they taught me, they told him to inform the nearest adult, and taught him about the sticks and stones.
I was taken aback by the 180-degree change in their stance. Were they encouraging him to be a snitch (and by snitch I meant bitch)? While I understood why they would want an adult to know what’s going on, I couldn’t comprehend why they wouldn’t even want him, as a young man, to stand up for himself.
“Kids are different these days,” my mom said. “They bring guns and knives to school.”
My dad echoed her sentiments. “Standing up for himself ain’t worth his life.”
Is that what it’s come to now? Kids having to choose between their self-esteem and their lives? Sure, I’ve seen kids bullied to the point of a shitty day, but I’ve also seen them fight it out and squash it with no fear of losing their lives. I had to know if this was a real concern, or if this was just my parents overreacting. I went to my little brother and asked him to be honest with me about the bullying landscape.
“You just never know,” he said. He told me of girls who had attempted suicide because the boys they’d sent naked pictures to forwarded them to other people at school; of boys who were so desperate to be seen as “cool” they’d bring whatever weapons they could find around their homes to school, and threaten to use them on the next person to piss them off. This opened another can of worms in itself. Why were young teenagers sending naked pictures to one another? Kids that age should be teasing one another about having cooties, not the clap.
What made my generation so different than that of my brother’s? Did 10 years really make that much of a difference in the youth mentality? The answer: no. Parents have changed. Parents are getting younger and younger, trying to be friends to their children instead of parents. Parents nowadays are so concerned with their kids not hating them that they don’t establish any boundaries, allowing kids to think they can do what mom and/or dad do. But that, dear readers, is another rant for another day.
Though I still believe that kids are a little too sensitive nowadays when it comes to bullying (from both the aggressor and the defender), I can certainly understand why it’s become such a magnified issue in the media. I just hope that one day, kids can reclaim their innocence and enjoy a day in school without worrying about whether they’ll be blasted across social media, or blasted otherwise.