Teens, Social Media & Bullying

bullyIt’s that time of year again.  School is back in session.   And while some kids are excited, others are dreading that walk down the hallway, knowing that friendly faces will be few and far between…

Living in a small town, I always thought bullying was a big city problem.  I mean, small town America is  apple pie and baseball and cookouts.  It’s safe.   But I was wrong.  Bullying is everywhere – even if we  don’t want to acknowledge it.  I’ve  spent hours wondering how, when and why bullying became so  prevalent.  I don’t have the answers.

Back in the day:

When I was in school, kids worked out their differences on the playground.  A punch here, pulled hair there, a bit of rolling on the ground…  A trip to the principal’s office and in most cases – problem solved.  We didn’t have to worry about school shootings.  Heck, we were shooting skeet in my eighth grade physical education class.   Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true.

In high school, many of my classmates enjoyed hunting.  It wasn’t uncommon for them to bring their shotguns to school.  They left them in their trucks, secured in a gun rack.   After their last class, they’d head out for an evening hunt.  As crazy as it sounds, it never crossed our minds that someone might use a gun with the intention of hurting others.  Guns were for hunting – they helped put food on the table.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I know there was bullying.  I saw it.  But – it wasn’t to the extent it is today.

Today, everything has changed.

Social media is as dangerous as it is wonderful.  It has opened up the world.  We are aware of things going on in other places that we might never have known.   Yet on the flip side, social media can be as deadly as any drug addiction – particularly with teens.  Times may have changed but teens are pretty consistent.  Peer pressure is as much of a problem now as it ever was.  The need to be part of the group is still strong.

It’s not uncommon for a teen to be suicidal because of the unrelenting assaults – verbal or otherwise.  It’s not like bullying stays at school.  There was a time when home was a refuge.   Now bullying invades our homes, our cars, etc.  It’s everywhere we are.   And who brings it in? It’d would be nice if we could blame some masked bandit.  But no – the truth is never that easy.  The truth is this:  We invite the bullies into our homes.  We offer them rides in our cars.   We literally give  them access to our most private and safe places  –  and we do it via social media sites.

I’ve often wondered why teens feel the need to constantly check posts and comments.  I mean, it really doesn’t make sense to me.   If a person doesn’t  like me – that’s okay.  There are plenty of others who do.  And that’s my point – why do teens keep subjecting themselves to this?  It’s kind of like watching mice in the drug experiments – they just don’t seem to be able to help themselves.

And what about the bullies?  What could make someone become a complete boil on the buttocks of humanity?  Did my generation do such a lousy job parenting that in essence, we created the problem? Or does sitting in front of a computer screen, with no one watching, bring out the worst in some people?   And how is it that the bullies completely missed that all important life lesson:   We should treat others the way we want to be treated.

There have always been and always will be bullies.   It’s just one of those nasty facts of  life.   While we may not be able to stop the bullies, we can lessen the damage by refusing to allow the them into our safe places.  Disconnecting from social media is a good place to start.





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