Have you noticed how much bullying comes up in the news? It’s almost as if bullying is a new phenomenon that is suddenly plaguing a young generation.
Bullying has probably been part of human encounters from the origin of our species, but now that it seems to be a recurring element in an increasing number of news stories, we should analyze whether it is a new concern or a new media trend that has been instantly adopted by society. There is always the danger of new media trends creating hysteria that actually disguise the real problems.
This week there was another school shooting – it occurred at the Sparks Middle School near Reno, NV. A 12-year-old student brought his parents’ gun to school and shot and injured two students, killed a beloved teacher and then shot and killed himself. What made this tragedy so shocking was the 12-year-old boy was described as a “nice kid,” and one student said he was the kind of kid who would make you smile if you were having a bad day. She also said she witnessed the young student being bullied on several occasions and she believes that his actions were an act of revenge. Another student said the boy pointed at a group and said, “You ruined my life and now I’m going to ruin yours.”
Last week, a high school student in Austin, TX posted on Facebook that he was going to take his own life, and later that same day he took out a gun during lunch and shot himself in front of other students. Bullying was part of that story.
Also last week, there was a story about two teenage girls who were arrested and face a felony charge for constantly bullying a 14-year-old, who committed suicide in Winter Haven, FL.
And bullying was even part of a story this week about the father of a high school football player in Ft. Worth, TX who has filed a complaint accusing an opposing coach for bullying his son’s high school football team, because the final score in the game was 91-0.
These stories are just a few of numerous recent stories that include bullying as a contributing factor in senseless tragedies – or in the case of the football game – severe humility. But is bullying really to blame – or has it become a marketable tool that’s being used by the media to attract attention to stories by creating panic in society?
Asking the question – which came first – the public’s new belief that bullying is suddenly a new factor to explain tragedies, or is the media creating that new belief in the minds of the public – is like asking which came first – the chicken or the egg? It really doesn’t matter since we now have both chickens and eggs. If we can determine that a media trend is the result of the instincts of the media to attract attention by instilling hysteria and panic, then we are more certain to focus on the real problem rather than media hype.
In a recent Scoot Blog titled, “Is Bullying to Blame for Teen Suicide,” I wrote, “Since it is estimated that 90% of the teens who commit suicide suffer from a mental disorder, it may not be easy to determine how much episodes of bullying contributed to teen suicide.” Mental health issues are vague and complicated and the media loves stories with easily understood reasons for tragedies, but it’s just not always that simple. We want to know the definite reasons for tragedies and that makes us feel as if we understand the problem and therefore can prevent future tragedies. But that rarely leads to real solutions.
Bullying most certainly contributes to tragedies, but should not be blamed as the direct cause as so many stories seem to imply. When the father of a high school football player uses the term bullying in a complaint about an opposing coach whose team beat his son’s team 91-0, you can’t help but consider that bullying has become a new and convenient scapegoat for tragedies and human humiliation.
To put this in further perspective – the winning coach in the game that ended 91-0 actually pulled his starters after 21 plays and began to let the clock run uninterrupted at the beginning of the 3rd quarter. It doesn’t seem as if the coach was trying to bully the other team. And yet, because of the word bully in the story – it will attract much more attention as it feeds the new hysteria over something that isn’t really new.
Bullying is serious and with the ability to emotionally bully someone through social media – phones, computers, tablets, etc. – escaping the constant presence of bullying has become more of a challenge today than it was in the past, when you just walked away from the source of bullying. But there are ways to block and ignore bullying on phones and through social media that essentially amount to walking away. But the new panic over bullying is rendering a society that appears helpless to react.
As bullying has risen to the level of causing tragedies or humiliating situations, we should ask if society is too quick to embrace bullying as an excuse for failure. And if bullying is a new excuse for tragedies – then we, as a society, continue on a path of diminishing the importance of personal accountability, which is the foundation of a civilized society.
The biggest problems in America can be solved by returning to the time when individuals were held accountable for their behavior, their decisions and their actions without instinctively blaming another person or outside influence. Today, when something tragic happens, we are quick to deflect any blame from our children, or from ourselves as parents and adults.
There are now consistently stories in the news about groups that are promoting the idea that we must stop bullying. Since bullying exists everywhere – on the playground, in school, in the workplace and even in social settings like parties and bars – it would be better for us to focus on teaching a young generation to deal with bullying rather than naïvely think we can somehow make it disappear. And when a new young generation is taught to deal with bullying, as we were when we grew up, we will be teaching them a valuable lesson they will take with them throughout their lives.
Attempts to completely erase human actions that are inevitably part of the human psyche demonstrate our desire to find simple solutions to deeply complicated problems, when the real solutions are complicated and present greater challenges. And doesn’t this desire fit perfectly into the instant gratification mentality that is now such an integral part of America?