The school season has come. Our vacations are over. The school, high school, and college are waiting for us. Something very difficult to deal with for some of us might be there: bullying and the new version of it, cyberbullying. October is the bullying prevention month. So, we couldn’t think of a better time to talk about this and start a very much needed conversation.
As a victim of this horrific problem that has been growing over the years, and someone that overcame this with success, I have to say it is extremely important to discuss certain topics that are pretty much key to this problem.
Opening up about Bullying
Culturally speaking is a huge taboo for the kids and teenagers to talk about this. At that stage of life we are mainly two things: 1. – Afraid (big time!) 2.-Desperately wanting to be in control of the situation to not feel weak with our friends and relatives.
And that is the main reason parents and adults need to talk about this often. Make them feel they are in a safe zone, in order to have a healthy communication channel and being able to talk about whatever situations might arise.
Being an outsider, different, uncommon, as you prefer to name it, makes you immediately a target. If you, your kids, or your siblings fit into this, please pay attention to them all the time.
I was fat, tall, had very bushy eyebrows and an uncommon beauty so there was no way for me to escape from this. Often I wanted to hide under my school table and not be seen by anyone. I was terrified to speak. The person that bullied me the most was my fifth-grade teacher together with the principal of the school. It was horrific, to say the least. There were days that I wonder how I made it. Back in the day, there were some days where I didn’t want to live anymore. It was that bad…
Watch for these signs
Besides keeping an eye on the kids and teenagers, I strongly suggest you take note of these signs experts point in order to detect something is happening. Physical, emotional, psychological signs that will alert you that something serious, with the big B, is happening: unjustified bruises, scratches or cuts, torn clothes or damaged belongings, lack of desire or fear of going to school, fear of riding a school bus, low level of scholastic performance, complaining of losing his/her belongings, uncertain pain, headache, abdominal pain, mouth ulcers, signs of pain, unhappiness, loneliness, depression, desire to cry, stuttering, thinking of suicide, nervousness and bad moods, not eating or overeating, inability to sleep, nightmares, crying during sleep, wetting the bed, unwillingness to talk about what is happening.
Bullying got even bigger in the 2.0 world. There are several, documented cases that didn’t have a happy ending. The suicide rates among teenagers due to bullying are an ugly reality we need to face. Experts say unfortunately this is far from being over.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been doing some important changes in its policies to help. Recently, Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram, claims that cyberbullying happens between people who know each other in real life, particularly when it comes to teenagers. This week Instagram has announced an anti-bullying featured called “Restrict” an option to not be visible to your bully, but still, that person can reach you through a direct message or DM.
As an activist and spokesperson on this cause for more than 20 years, and yet very much a target of trolls and bullies online on a daily basis, I have to say it like it is. CEO´s of social media are not doing enough. They are not getting the “real deal” here. Cyberbullying is a very dark reality and is not punished and controlled enough.
What to do?
When it comes to bullying, psychologists suggest parents and adults around the kid/teenager need to be understanding, kind and good listeners, make the victim feel safe, protected, cared and important. They also suggest talking about the situation as much as necessary in order to take the fear out of the child or teenager; make the “monster” visible and take the power of the abusers by loudly and publically talking about it.
It is important -very much- to explain to them what therapists consider the roots of this problem. The bully is normally a hurt kid trying to heal the pain by hurting others or a kid following bad examples from the adults around him/her.
This is a serious matter that needs to be taken care of. It is extremely important to report this with the teacher and the principal. It is important also to make this visible with the parents of the other child/teenager involved and take it to other authorities of the area if necessary. The kid needs to understand this kind of behavior has consequences and is unacceptable. He/she needs to feel protected in a situation that leaves him /her in a very vulnerable position.
And always report it! The law is with you.
In Dubai, cyberbullying is a crime. In fact, UAE Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 (Penal Code) and Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 consider harassment, distribution of pornography and so, as crimes. Bu reporting this with the authorities is a must, no matter where you live. Make sure to record and photograph evidence of the bullying and cyberbullying. You will need them in order to prove and show the authorities.
Experts on cybersecurity insist to not feed the trolls, not interact with the cyberbullies and block them right away. They want your attention; they want control over you and is exactly what you have the power to not give them. Be the bigger person, always.
Finally, as difficult it may seem, you can overcome this horrible situation. Back in the day, no one knew anything, yet I had the courage to speak about it on TV when I was 35 years old. Most of the people that knew me from my childhood didn’t believe me (including my parents).
You can do it and you can help, so no more looking elsewhere!
The big shadow of the bullying still chase me to this day. I was not only excluded from any social activity, group, etc, but I was also mocked up and call the most horrific names you could ever possibly imagine, exactly at that age my self-esteem was building up. I only have 4 pictures of my high school life and those pictures were only possible only because I squeeze myself into the frame.
Things have dramatically change for me. Now all my bullies want to be my friends. They create stories with me from that age that just never existed because we had zero friendship. Now as an adult advocate helping other kids and teenagers on this very sensitive issue, I keep pushing forward to create laws that protect us from this.
You need to believe in yourself – past, present and future- because if you don´t, then who will?
Never remain in silence, speak up, don´t be part of the problem.
You got this…
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