Okay, so today we’ve focused our minds on bullying. We’ve talked about it at school. We’ve discussed it at home. We’ve thought about those unhappy times in our own childhoods when we copped our fair share of physical and psychological thuggery in the school yard. But what happens tomorrow?
Having a day set aside to address bullying is good thing. However, it’s a problem that persists all year round and in this era of social media intrudes on young lives around the clock.
It is a corrosion we need to confront whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head.
When us adults were bullied, we could seek refuge in our homes at the end of the school day and over the weekend and holidays. We weren’t trolled on social media by our tormentors. The telephone was something that sat on the hall stand at home. It didn’t live in our pockets. And it didn’t transmit the social media poison that can devastate someone targeted by bullies.
These days, victims of bullying might be pushed around and humiliated at school only to have it continue online when they get home.
The effects can lead to all sorts of social and psychological harm. And if a victim’s education is disrupted, those consequences can last a lifetime. Social anxiety, the fear of not belonging or being in control of one’s life and a sense of powerlessness can rob a person of their full potential.
And it’s not just victims who can suffer. Perpetrators who persist in bullying behaviour have a higher chance of falling foul of the law and becoming social outcasts themselves. Bystanders who witness bullying also suffer, fearing for their own safety, especially if they report the wrongdoing. It all becomes a vicious circle.
We see the effects of it in the adult world. When residents are adversely affected by anti-social behaviour but are too fearful to report it, it’s safe bet the root cause lies in bullying. Chances are the louts disrupting the neighbourhood were bullies at school whose behaviour was never adequately addressed. And the neighbours who suffer in silence were probably bullied.
Bullying is a huge challenge – for schools, students, parents and communities. It is not something that can be tackled in a day.
However, if Friday’s National Day of Action Against Bullying has triggered a conversation, that is a step forward. It is now up to us all to keep that conversation going.