In the old days, fun and pranks were joy of childhood. Teasing means another thing in our age! Bullying, ranging from arguments to assaults, is now a rapidly spreading menace all over our nation and it lurks behind almost every unfortunate childhood.
To start with, a shocking case happened a while ago in our capital, Delhi. A middle school teenager from Modern School Delhi was exposed to some severe and outrageous verbal assault by his peers. Someone recorded the entire incident on a smart phone. When the story hit the newspapers next day, some words were cut out, being too abusive for print.
After being analysed, everyone was appalled at the language used in the assault. There was an outrage among the parents and the general society along with a lot of chaos after which after which the case was finally sorted out.But was a little too late, for the damage had already been done.
I also recall some personal experiences in this regard which I had experienced around a year ago in 5th grade. I along with some classmates experienced some minor emotional bullying in our class. Our teacher would pick a certain ‘smart’ student in the class for special treatment and favoritism, which in turn would embolden the child along with her cronies to behave in a particular rude, manner with certain ‘not so smart’ ones and ridicule them.
They wrongly perceived us to be some of them but got it back in equal terms. However, the most saddening aspect of all was the innocuous favoritism shown by some teachers who got carried away by these false personas. Even when the matter was brought to their notice, they failed to respond appropriately, thus subtly colluding in the act. This would dampen our spirits to a great extent. Some children stooped low in grades while others resigned themselves to hesitation and awkwardness for most of the term.
Yet this was a rather mild case of bullying, one which could be handled. Reality becomes much harsher when we come to the day to day life of a teenager. High school girls are known to compete viciously for a certain ‘popularity’ among peers, which leads to aiming to the vulnerable targets for bullying. The victim’s looks, relations and social status are the main aspects of such bullying tactics which forces the victim to submit to their commands.
It is perhaps difficult to imagine the pain of the child going every day to school, knowing she is going to be bullied.
Her or his self esteem can really get severely compromised. Extreme cases lead on to anorexia, cutting, depression or even suicide for some girls, while it continues to torment others in smaller ways. Perhaps it is true when it is said that, sometimes, words really do cut in deeper than knives.
Along with verbal bullying, physical assault is also becoming common in schools now. Fights can be sparked by the victim’s color, religion, country, accent, higher academic standing or simply a feeble argument. This can go on from threats to blows and punches. But even more than the body, the assault leaves an indelible imprint of pain on the person’s mind, forever.
Around the age of seven, I used to travel in an army bus and we regularly saw a senior girl being bullied. This often led to tears and she sought shelter from us, the younger kids. Matters finally worsened when a particular girl went too far with words which resulted in blows and parental involvement.
After physical assault, cyber bulling is the next big trend with children. One nasty comment on Facebook or Twitter can be liked ‘liked’ and forwarded to thousands others making it seem to the victim that the whole world is out to get her.
But in rare situations, social networking sites can also be a way to fight back.
Nine-year-old Alvena Little Wolf from D.C. showed tremendous courage when she posted pictures of herself working out after being mocked all over school for her weight. In a matter of hours, the pictures had got over a 1000 likes, which meant a lot of people knew and faced what little Alvena felt.
Children usually don’t tend to talk to their parents about their insecurities, problems or bullying in school. Children undergoing this trauma can be judged by any of the tell tale signs, such as unexplained bruises, sudden drop in grades, depression or anger and health complaints, etc. If found to be bullied, how the child is now helped is extremely crucial. The child should be helped in opening up and is to be listened to with full empathy. If patience is not shown in listening to the victim, it may lead to deepening his/ her pain and anguish. And so having a strong family bond is invaluable in such situations.
On the lighter side, bullying at a small level can even be healthy! A new study tested 2,000 teenagers and has proven that kids who have revolted against bullies develop a strong self esteem and are generally respected and admired in school. I am one of the beneficiaries.
I remember around four years ago when I was seven, a rather ‘smart’ girl had teased me throughout the day on some stupid issue. I finally took on her after she had bullied me throughout the entire recess and left with a childish remark about my parents. I got the matter reported to our school nuns.
I felt quite brave in doing that and she was put in her place by the teacher. A lot of my classmates congratulated and applauded me on this one. They were also the victims of the girl. Little did I know that this small incident had given them the confidence to stand up to bullies. Perhaps it is healthy to strike back on a small level but it is important to know the difference between pranks and actual bullying!
With the increasing trends of such bullying incidents, it is now time that we sit up and take notice. Children should be taught the difference between right and wrong and have life values instilled by all of you, the parents.
Not only will this lead to a successful life for the children, but will the save the millions of children from the hurt and pain they all have undergone.
For all of us and our children, it is truly time for change.
This was the very first article I ever wrote at the age of 12 years and after nearly a month of revisions – It was ready at last! Reader’s Digest Magazine held it for a long time and even put it on its consideration list.
It was a big step for me as an author, and it marks my very first achievement. I hope you like the numerous ideas in this article.
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I look forward to seeing you in my next post.