By Dra. Audrey Prieto
You are not intelligent enough… you are not tall enough… you are not thin enough… you are not pretty enough… you are not enough…
According to UNICEF (New York, 2014) worldwide, one in three teenagers aged between 13 and 15 years are victims of bullying and at least one in three students aged between 11 and 15 years in Europe and the United States has reported cases of bullying in their institutes.
What is bullying? It is the harassment or aggression by one or more people to exert power over another one. Hostility can be verbal (disqualifications, threats and insults) physical (hitting, shoving and pushing) and online (sharing images or rumors).
Bullying can be very painful and humiliating for the victim, in most cases children or teenagers. The US Center for Disease Control explains that bullying can cause a low self-esteem, self-doubt, poor school performance, school dropout, insomnia, depression, and suicides, alarming the world in the last years.
Recent cases such as Bethany Thompson’s (November 2016) should rise reflection and commitment. An American child, 11 years old and cancer survivor, could not stand teasing from her classmates and decided to kill herself. They made fun of her appearance, a sequel of her disease.
Our society teaches us about what is physical and intellectual “beauty”, and we decide to accept those silly stereotypes. Most of the bullying cases happen to people with a physical or intellectual distinction: height, weight, skin color, sexual orientation, religion, character, nationality…
We, as parents, should strengthen our children’s personality from a very early age. We are responsible for their healthy development. Thus, we must share with them positive values, offer them encouragement and believe on them so that they can grow up healthy and with a high self-esteem. In this way, we will help them to value things and people in their teen years, protecting them from being dominated or manipulated just for trying to be “accepted” by others.
Every youth is different. Some of them need the approval of a group, a friend, adults or society. There can be in a single family an independent and confident teenager, and another who is shy and insecure. Ignoring or dismissing teen’s inferiority feelings is a grave mistake. We as adults can think that the situation is not a big deal, but for our youth, it can be a big issue.
The point is not to commiserate with the teen and reinforce those feelings, but understand what is causing the problem and, as parents and teachers, guide him/her to overcome difficulties.
Immigrant children are living a painful situation in different countries around the world.
UNICEF (Septiembre 2016) in its publication: “Uprooted: The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children” reports that after leaving their houses, and living all kind of difficulties, children are harassed, discriminated and marginalized in the school system of the country where they are “welcome”. I wonder, what will be the consequences of this issue? What kind of people will those children turn out to be? How could they contribute to the future of society?
Nowadays, a new kind of bullying has arisen: “cyberbullying,” taking advantage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). A UNICEF study (June 2016) reports that eight in ten youth, 18 years old, expressed being at risk of harassment on social networks. Other cases can be remembered while talking about cyberbullying: 15-year-old Felicia García and Amanda Todd and 18-year-old Tyler Clementi couldn’t overcome the exposure and smear from their peers throughout Internet. It is hard not to wonder, do I live in this society? Are my kids part of it? What’s wrong with us? Are parents and teachers prepare to deal with the horror that children and teenagers are living?
I cannot but think how to help and strengthen my kid and students so that they won’t be victims of bullying. Furthermore, What do I do if my son is one of those terrible people who enjoy making fun and humiliating others? Maybe, there is a story behind, but what am I doing to avoid my kid being one of those monsters? We have to teach all children that diversity is a gift. We can’t be all the same. Everybody deserves being valued and respected. Intolerance and stereotypes are wreaking havoc in our youth. Although the context doesn’t help us, we must never give up. Let’s get involved!