Lately there’s been a lot of discussion about internet trolls. You know those folk who elect to post poisonous comments about others who typically enjoy a public profile. But let’s not forget those other ever nefarious scourges in our society. By which of course I mean, bullies.
Far too many of us have been on the receiving end of the treatment meted out by bullies. And while trolls inflict emotional scars on their targets, the bullies in our midst’s handiwork have long lasting consequences.
Bullying blighted my school years. And in various jobs, over the years, I’ve had to endure the pernicious influence of bullying (and typically incompetent) bosses. Some subtle, some less so but at the end of the day, bullies one and all.
The unwelcome spectre of the bully came close to our home last term; when our young daughter elected to text her primary school to get something done about the bullying behaviour by one of her classmates. After I’d done a double take at her action, it was all I could do to supress my joy. It’s since become one of thoseunqualifiedyes moments.
I remain resolutely convinced that my own school bullying experience had a negative effect on my scholarly trajectory. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I’ll concede I’m not in the MENSA ball park but I think I possess a reasonable set of functional neurons, even if I’m now past fifty.
But it was difficult to apply oneself when you never knew when the next unwelcome put-down or spontaneous half-nelson was about to occur. The bullyingI experienced was ugly, soul destroying and, needless to say, unwanted. But I learned to put up with it and make myself a small target. Sometimes this strategy worked, mostly it did not. Our headmaster, I recall, was a timid ineffectual man who was rarely seen outside the confines of his office. Anti-bullying policies hadn’t yet conjured. My school wasn’t Lord of the Flies territory but on a few occasions it came perilously close. Half a lifetime later I still harbour a smouldering resentment that my bully,was never brought to brook.
My experience has left me with a lifelong distaste for bullies and a disdain for those in positions of powers who elect to ignore bullying behaviour.
Research shows that as many as one in four school children at some stage will experience bullying. And one in four kids, however which way you look at it, adds up to a hell of a lot of potentially unhappy and scarred school children. This, no doubt, accounts for the fact that there are some decent aids available online to kids like my daughter.
It wasn’t as if our daughter was displaying any classic symptoms of being bullied. She continues to head off to school every day with unbridled optimism. My wife and I hadn’t noticed any particular regression in her behaviour. And although we were disappointedthat our daughter hadn’t been able to raise her concerns with us, I took some solace in the fact that her text initiated a chain of events that seems to have gone a considerable way to dealing with the problem.
It transpired she’d simply googled “how to deal with school bullying” and she’d duly followed the prompts. So despite my recalcitrant Luddite-like tendencies, and my scepticism about the wonders of social media, I have to say, in this instance, a simple text brought a result.
Of course our daughter didn’t confide in us: just as I’d never have dreamed of disclosing my bullying experience to my parents.There’s only so much children will tell their parents. I guess this is an inevitable part of their maturation process. At first our daughter was embarrassed when she learned the school principal had contacted us. But gradually she disclosed the events of recent months, which culminated in her decision to text the school.
It’s tough going for kids these days. Concerns about bullying and the impact it has on one’s mental health are well founded. Kids heading into adolescence need all of our collective encouragement and support.Of course we can’t cottonwool our kids from every unwelcome obstacle they encounter, nor should we. And it’s probably not all that useful for parents to swoop to the rescue at the first sign of a problem. After all kids need to learn some resilience that may stand them in good stead for challenges later in life.
So spare me from trolls. And as far as bullies go –I say, out the buggers and call them on their behaviour. I didn’t but I wish I did. But that was half a lifetime ago. This is now. Bring it on.