Creating a Better Future: One Person at a Time | Teen Ink

Creating a Better Future: One Person at a Time

March 9, 2019
By KTB BRONZE, No, Georgia
KTB BRONZE, No, Georgia
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Bullying is painfully common, equally affecting students in all schools. It is a national issue because all across the United States, there are children who suffer. And not only the United States. Some of these children grow up thinking that being the victim of bullying is their fault. The others believe that they are better than everyone else, and therefore, can impose a verbal or physical threat to those most vulnerable. We all shake our heads in disapproval when we read an article about bullying and its destructive consequences. But what can we do about it? While we may not be able to directly influence or enforce the bullying policies in each state, we can start by helping those in our own school, town, or county - those in our own backyard.

To quote Georgia’s definition of bullying, it is a pattern of physical, verbal, or written acts that substantially affect a student and their education. The key word here is “substantially”, but why wait until the damage becomes substantial? I propose to start acting now. Identifying the stages of bullying is the first step in assisting the victim; the MEAN acronym can help with that.

“M” is for Mentality; the first described stage in the bullying process. The mentality is the psychological reasoning behind why students may become bullies. The common opinion among educators previously suggested that bullies harass others to compensate for their own lack of self-esteem. However, recent research shows that bullies develop due to a surplus or deficiency of certain aspects in life. Some bullies are smarter, wealthier, more athletic, or more popular- while others are subject to neglect, conflicts between parents, emotional or physical abuse. Overall, a deep and inescapable insecurity appears to be the culprit.

The next letter “E”, in the acronym, is for Events. This is the stage where bullying typically unfolds. The four most common types of bullying are verbal, physical, relative, and cyber-bullying. Verbal bullying consists of cruel spoken words, name-calling, and comments about appearance, religion or other attributes of a person. Most common among female students, verbal bullying often includes gossip. Physical bullying, on the other hand, predominantly features males. Kicking, shoving, and wrestling - are just a few examples of what physical bullying may entail. The term “relative bullying” implies intentional exclusion as a form of harassment - for example, not inviting a certain person to a gathering, knowing that they will be hurt. Lastly, there is cyber-bullying - the most advanced and destructive type of virtual offense since the introduction of social media.

The next letter of the MEAN acronym is “A”, which stands for the Aftermath of bullying. The post-effects of bullying are wide and diverse and do not always happen immediately. Contrary to popular belief, both bullies and their victims can encounter issues later on in life. Evidence suggests that children who were bullies in sixth through ninth grade have a sixty percent higher chance of having a criminal conviction by the age of 24. In general, a bully is five times more likely to have been arrested as an adult. Often, such negative experiences are not the only things that perforate their adult life. Viewed to be too difficult to deal with, many bullies are simply rejected. This may affect their mental stability, causing depression and even suicidality.

The last and the most hopeful part of the MEAN acronym is the “N”. It stands for the Next step. It is the step where we can positively influence the bullying process and be instrumental to those who need help. There are systems in place to assist the victims on a municipal level. In the state of Georgia alone, there are over 25 laws and policies to help prevent bullying.  Psychologists encourage counseling and offer therapeutic strategies. Support groups exist to help the victims, however, few systems are in place to help the bully. Often, a key part of preventing harm is understanding the bully themselves. To quote Atticus from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view -- until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Therefore, instead of punishing the bully with detention or expulsion, let us instead try to befriend them. We, as classmates and neighbors, can help by showing an infinite compassion. Even if we cannot walk in their shoes, we can help by walking alongside them.

In conclusion, I encourage you to start thinking beyond the common tendency to only sympathize with the victim. The bully may be suffering in their own way, without any comfort or healthy outlet of their feelings. As it frequently occurs in nature, the predator may also be the prey. Bullying is a national issue, spanning generations. It is omnipresent in all societies, therefore we should focus on how WE can make a change in our communities. Bullying may be a growing problem, but we can build a healthier future by caring for one another. One person at a time.

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