Bully education starts at home

Published 11:27 pm Friday, November 4, 2011

Tuesday morning I went to Demopolis High School to cover a presentation on bullying.

At 31 years old, bulling is hardly a daily concern for me. Honestly, looking back over my childhood, I don’t recall it being an issue.

Before Tuesday, I probably would have told you that bullying wasn’t an issue at my school. Now, I would probably just say it wasn’t an issue for me. It probably was for someone else. Maybe several people.

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My dad instilled a pretty basic principle in me when I was growing up. Basically, it was leave people alone. Interacting with them socially was fine, joking and playing with them was fine. But crossing an invisible line and inflicting physical or emotional pain was not.

In turn, for the most part, I followed that advice.

In high school, there was a guy in my circle of friends that we all “picked at.” Back then, I wouldn’t have called it bullying because we all cared for him as a person. We picked on him, but he picked back. It was just part of our routine.

Today, things are a little different. In the early 90s, the Internet was hardly what it is now. There was no facebook. The guy who founded facebook was still in high school.

There was no texting. Many 20-something-year-olds didn’t have cell phones much less high school students.

You could get away from it. You could insulate yourself at home.

You can’t do that anymore. You can’t run and it’s hard to hide.

I think the faceless nature of facebook and texting has made bullying even more prevalent. There’s no risk of your target bloodying your nose in a fit of rage.

That may be part of the problem. I witnessed several classmates “work things out the old fashioned way”. Fighting is never a good solution to a problem but in some cases it can bring some finality to it.

A facebook argument can carry on for days or weeks. You can text all day. There’s no risk in physical retaliation.

The basic principles of bullying lie within children themselves but that foundation is laid by parents.

If you’ve not told your children what is and what is not okay about bullying, odds are they’ll learn that from someone else who hasn’t learned it either.

Lizzie, for example, has been given the same advice I got; leave people alone. She’s also been told that should she witness an instance of bullying at school to remove that child from the situation by either finding a teacher or stepping in and speaking up on their behalf.

Lizzie’s size clearly dictates that she’s not going to be an effective bouncer. However, her message is clear, “Hey. This isn’t right.”

It’s my responsibility as a parent to teach my child to be responsible for their actions, even at the age of seven.

I think we owe that all our children and we also owe it to the children they come into contact with daily. Healthy social interaction is a key to long-term success as adults. You can’t learn that by bullying your way through life and that’s a lesson best taught at the elementary level.


Jason Cannon is publisher of the Demopolis Times.