Bullying, sad but true, is here to stay
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 17, 2013 06:00 am
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” goes the popular television commercial jingle – a time when parents ready their kids for school with everything from new clothes to backpacks to school supplies. It’s also the time of year that the provincial government sends out its Back to School package, a guide with tips for students as they head to the classroom. But this guide doesn’t just contain bus-riding etiquette and studying tips. In this day and age, the subject of bullying has become a staple of the back-to-school lexicon.
“Students will find information about their curriculum, helpful study tips and links to information on bullying prevention, such as www.b-free.ca. Students can also learn ways to develop their leadership skills and participate in unique educational opportunities through Speak Out – the Alberta Government’s innovative student forum,” stated the media release. Sadly, the issue of bullying is included front and centre with other information for new and returning students.
St. Albert is no stranger to the bullying issue as has been well-documented in the Gazette in the past. Alberta and Canada in general have much improvement to make when it comes to preventing intimidation and violence among children. The National Institutes of Health in the United States conducted a 2009 study comparing violence rates among boys and girls in 40 industrialized nations, and Canada was in the middle of the pack. Of boys aged 11 to 15, 23.3 per cent reported violent bullying episodes or intimidation, while for girls the same age the rate was lower, 17.0. Sweden had the lowest proportions, between four and seven per cent.
Bullying among children is no laughing matter. Violence and intimidation can have lasting effects on children, effects that linger when they grow into adults. The severity of the problem is easily seen in high-profile deaths by suicide recently of Canadian teens who’d been badly bullied. In fact, the word bullying doesn’t even do some of the incidents credit, as they included violence and sexual assault.
A well-known Alberta child psychologist, Dr. Scott Wooding, who speaks publicly about bullying, has also worked as a school counselor. In his presentation The Bullying Boom, Wooding says the evidence he sees suggests bullying is getting worse, not better. Obviously, if the provincial government is including the subject of bullying in a back-to-school kit, Wooding can’t be far from the mark.
What’s contributing to this problem? Experts such as Wooding cite a number of thing such as working parents spending less time with their kids and hence less supervision and guidance, the massive effect of technology like cellphones and social media on children which is said to have a negative effect on their social skills and, specifically in Wooding’s opinion, a lack of consequences for the aggressor. Wooding pointed out he strongly disagrees with some anti-bullying strategies that place the aggressor and the victim together “to work it out.” In Wooding’s opinion, this only gives the bully another chance to terrorize his or her victim.
Regardless of the many factors that are contributing to violence and intimidation among youth, there is still one major factor that is more important to kids than anything else: their parents. Parents are still, by far, the greatest influence in any child’s life.
Parents who have frank discussions with their kids about preventing violence and intimidation and go out of their way to teach their kids that such behaviour is not acceptable will have more effect on the bullying problem in this country than an army of therapists and school counselors.