You’ve undoubtedly been privy to the heartbreaking and saddening stories on the news lately about teens, children and young adults who’ve taken their own lives as a direct result of becoming the victims of bullies. Unless you live under a rock, you know that bullying is prevalent in our society, in our nation and even in little old Tampa. As a parent you probably worry that your child could be bullied or that you child could be doing the bullying. You hope that you’ve raised your child to know the difference between right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable and that tolerance is one of the most important traits one has. Everyone is different and everyone has a different opinion. To bully another simply because he or she chooses to exist in a manner that differs from you is disgusting. There is no other word.
Sadly, bullying isn’t limited to children and young adults. Grown women and men are bullied regularly by those who lack whatever social skill is required to live a life as a kind and decent human being. Think about the last time you were bullied and think back to how it made you feel. Even the most minor of incidents can so negatively affect your day that you cannot shake the hurt. Now imagine that type of behavior being extended to a younger person, a teen or child and ask yourself this: if the bullying of another immature and intolerant adult bothers you this much, how does it make a child – a child who hasn’t yet had the time or experience to realize that ignorance is everywhere and that not everyone will like him or her – feel? Chew on that for the rest of the day.
In a recent discussion with acquaintances, one Tampa mother came across a man who feels that it is perfectly all right to speak negatively of others, to call them names and use derogatory comments because the first amendment tells him that it’s all right for him to say whatever he wants. This Tampa mother had this to say:
“The first amendment – a piece of paper written by human beings – gives Americans the freedom of speech. God – or whichever higher power in which you hold your faith – gave us brains. Frankly, brains trump paper and I believe we use the first amendment as an excuse for poor behavior and a lack of brain usage. Slander and bullying are not “fine print” beneath the first amendment stating that we can all act like complete jerks and treat others and speak of others in a less than civil manner simply because some guys wrote that we have the freedom of speech. In addition, the first amendment doesn’t say that we have the freedom of speech to say horrible things about another; it says we have the freedom to speak our minds about our difference of opinion from the government, to believe in our own religions and to PEACEABLY speak our differences. I don’t believe calling someone a profane name or bullying them on their Facebook wall or to their face is at all peaceable. Agreeing to disagree, not seeing eye to eye in a civil manner or just accepting that not everyone thinks everything you do is perfect is what the first amendment protects; not your overwhelming and inappropriate desire to tell someone she’s a terrible person because she prefers Jimmy Choo to Manolo Blahnik. Besides, I highly doubt James Madison, the writer of the first amendment, our nation’s fourth president and one of our nation’s Founding Fathers would be overly thrilled to learn that his belief in freedom of speech is what the ignorant use to justify their inappropriate behavior”.
Bullying is everywhere; adults face it, children face it. It’s in schools, offices, the grocery store and it’s on the internet. Let’s be honest; as parents we have enough to worry about, college tuition, the teenage years and whether or not you’re going to request the DJ play “Baby Got Back” or something from the “Grease” soundtrack at your child’s 8th grade dance so you can break it down old school on the dance floor and adequately embarrass your child. There isn’t time to worry about bullying. So teach your kids not to bully. If you do that, you never have to worry about becoming indirectly responsible for the lost life of an innocent child whose life your child made so miserable death seemed more inviting.
For more information on bullying in the Tampa area and how to prevent it, check out some of these articles and sources.