If you were bullied one or more times during your childhood, you’re not alone. Chances are the majority of readers who read this column can remember vividly people who treated them cruelly.
Some may scoff at the “seriousness” of children being bullied, and say it doesn’t happen that often, that it’s an exaggeration. But let me put it into perspective. According to dosomething.org, a website dedicated to putting an end to bullying in America, there are 3.2 million kids every year who feel alone, hated or worthless.
And according to bullyingstatistics.org, a website dedicated to educating the public on bullying issues, about 160,000 of those children across America skip school because they are being bullied. While that may not seem like a lot, the truth is, those children do not feel safe enough to go to school — a place that is supposed to be safe and where they can learn without fear.
Also according to bullyingstatistics.org, out of those 3.2 million, 17 percent of teens report being bullied two to three times a month. It is possible that either you or your child are part of those statistics, or you know someone who is.
People tend to think it’s children who are the problem, because they sit by and let it happen. That is actually a misconception. Yes, there are some who don’t, but most often, teens are the ones who put a stop to it. The actual problem lies with the parents. They either don’t listen to their child, who tries to warn them they are getting bullied until it’s too late, or they don’t listen to other people who are telling them their child is the one bullying other kids.
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen parents make excuses for their child’s behavior, such as, “Oh, they are just kids, it’s not a big deal,” or, “Well, my child would never do that.” The fact is, if people are approaching the parent or parents about it, it is serious and they shouldn’t take it lightly. I understand it’s hard to admit that your child is acting horribly, but being a good parent is making it right when your child is mistreating others.
You may wonder, “So what? I hear about stopping bullying and bullying stories all the time.” Well, there is a reason for that. It is such a big deal, one that everyone knows about, but people still sit by and observe it going on every day.
I know several girls at this time who are bullied. I know at least one case where the child and the mother have tried to approach the bully’s parents but with no luck. They shrug it off and reply with, “My children would never do that to anyone. Your child just loves causing trouble.”
While I have never seen it in person, I have heard this girl remark about being pushed, elbowed and had vicious rumors spread about her to the point that she lost her friends. It is a tragedy when the bully’s parents have seen their own child act this way, yet they never take action to stop it.
I am not trying to say all parents are like this, because I also know some parents, who if told that their child was bullying someone, would stop it immediately. What I’m trying to explain is that bullying is a deeper problem than just children not stopping it at school.
I am lucky that my bullying experiences are not nearly as horrible as others. I have had mean or inappropriate things written on my car and rumors spread. Just the other day, I was made fun of for the clothes I wore for our school spirit week.
Sure, it hurt my feelings a little, but I let it go. How can I get angry at teens whose parents aren’t teaching them right or wrong? Of course they are going to bully; they never learned anything else and their parents in some way probably bully them or others.
The truly depressing part of this situation is that there is not much I or anyone can do about it until parents decide to take a stand.
I encourage parents to take the time and listen to their child. Listen to the things being said about their behavior at school. Pay attention to their friends, or even if they actually have friends, and how they act around them. If your child is being bullied, or is bullying, put a stop to it. Don’t pretend it will go away if it is ignored, because it won’t. Action delayed might be too late for someone, either your child or someone else’s.
Too many people hold the misconception that words can’t hurt. I am here to rephrase that into a more truthful statement: Words can and do cause terrible harm to thousands of children across America — and in Tooele County — every year. And too many who are the victims of bullying are traumatized with sometimes tragic results.
I have been bullied, my friends have been bullied — and my mom was even bullied when she was in school. Bullying is a serious problem that cannot and should not be ignored.
Peatross is a junior at Tooele High School.