I have been reading the recent articles on Peer Abuse (what I call that “bully” word as that “b” word is not cutting it in my opinion) and one stuck out to me. The NBC affiliate KFYR in New Town, North Dakota recently did a segment on a group called R5 Online which deals with that “b” word.
I commend R5 on their efforts. They do presentations with videos and pictures on how harmful words can be to elementary schools in the area. By painting these kids themselves into the pictures, they see themselves actually in that particular situation. This helps them to visualize and try to gain an understanding of each other. True, children do not think abstractly but the use of these pictures helps to put the problem into a concrete perspective. By doing this, children are learning to walk in one another’s shoes. I think this is a great way to learn empathy because early on, that is when children need to be learning it. If not, this can lead to other problems later in life. This day in time, I think we could all use a good dose of empathy training regardless of what age we may be. Not only is R5 using the picture technique, they are also putting up posters around all schools and have a website set up where kids can go and talk to a counselor about these problems. Boy, do I wish these resources were available elsewhere.
However, I have to disagree with a statement that was made concerning the fact that this problem decreases once these kids get into high school. I strongly disagree with this and will explain why. When a person matures and becomes more abstract in their thinking, how they approach things may be less evident and more covert. During the elementary years, child bullies are very vocal and do not have the sophistication that a teen has in disguising these situations. Teens know that vocalizing these things will get them into trouble so they become more sneaky in how they abuse their peers. They have the tools to manipulate these situations and who to take their actions to. As for the abuse, much of it is done relationally and is very hard to detect. Sure, some is overt like hate groups but much of it is done away from authority, in places where nobody will “rat them out” so to speak. The mind of an abuser has become abstract and the actions have developed. Needless to say, as a result of this, it is much harder to detect who the bully is and who they are abusing. Many in authority are missing the mark here and chances are, maybe the group from R5 is missing this as well? If having ones life threatened, do you think they are going to go and freely share the fact that they are being abused by their peers? That is ratting someone out! A form of social suicide! A sad and terrible way to view this but it’s all these kids know. The older they get, the more they know to be a fact. Maybe this is what could be occuring in this case?
As I previously stated, I am glad someone else out there is gaining an understanding and reaching out to others on this serious and lethal issue. Many bullies lack empathy and catching children early on is vital for healthy emotional growth. However, we need to understand that this problem does not “grow up” but it “grows worse” and becomes much harder to detect as a person matures. There are many adult abusers today who started out being childhood bullies. They flew under the radar due to the fact that their behavior was always excused and swept under the rug. They never grew up or out of their behavior, just fine tuned it with time. Remember, bullies do not “grow up” but they “grow worse”. This is definitely something to think about.
Elizabeth Bennett is the author of “Peer Abuse Know More! Bullying From A Psychological Perspective” and resides in Los Angeles, California. To learn more, visit http://www.peerabuse.info/ .