Last month was
National Bullying Prevention Month in the United States; this
week is Anti-Bullying
Week for our friends and colleagues in the UK. The fact that we
have to have these awareness months and weeks means this problem is
clearly out of control. In fact, the CDC says
bullying is so widespread that is has become a public health
Words Do Hurt
We've all heard the phrase "sticks and stones may break my
bones, but words will never hurt me." Well, I think we all know
that's not true. Words do hurt, and I am guessing all of us have at
least one thing we are insecure about.
Speaking as someone who as a child was not part of the "in" crowd,
I can attest to how much words can hurt. I was made fun of for all
kinds of things. My big nerdy glasses, my crooked teeth, my acne,
my uncool clothes. I managed to make it through those awkward
years, but those moments left some scars on my psyche.
"But Tiffany" you say, "people were just teasing you-they didn't
mean anything by it." Ok, fine. But when does teasing cross the
line into bullying? Webster's dictionary defines bully as "a
blustering browbeating person; one habitually cruel to others who
But what defines weaker? While physical strength is easy to
measure, it is much harder to measure a person's emotional
strength. I think a more appropriate definition comes from www.stopbullying.gov which
defines bullying as:
- An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power-such as
physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or
popularity-to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change
over time and in different situations, even if they involve the
- Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once.
Beyond the pure physical component of bullying, I think the key
to identifying emotional bullying is repetition. So, you made fun
of my glasses one day. I woke up with a huge pimple in the middle
of my forehead, and you just couldn't help yourself. We all tease
others from time to time. But if someone asks you to stop or tells
you something you said was hurtful, then JUST STOP!
"But Tiffany" you say, "it's just kids being kids. It doesn't
mean anything." Tell that to the parents of
Rebecca Ann Sedwick, a 7th grader who committed suicide earlier
this year after enduring a year of bullying that included messages
telling her to "just kill yourself." And did the girls who were
accused of bullying Rebecca show remorse for their actions? You be
the judge. One of them posted
this callous post on her Facebook page after Rebecca took her
When did this type of behavior become ok? How can a 14-year-old
girl have such little regard for another human's life? And how can
we fix it?
We will borrow some good advice from others for this:
1. The "Golden Rule": Do to others what you would have them do
to you. How would you feel if someone was making fun of you
incessantly? If you lived in fear of physical or emotional
harassment? This one should be easy people!
2. Homeland Security's "If you see something say something." If
you see someone getting bullied or partaking in bullying another,
speak up. If you don't feel comfortable confronting the bully for
fear of your own safety, then notify the authorities.
3. The Baltimore Raven's fan code of conduct "Don't be a jerk."
Plain and simple. Just don't. Like momma always said "If you don't
have something nice to say then don't say anything at all." If you
don't like something about someone, then keep it to yourself. No
one is saying you have to be friends with everyone, but at least be
You can make a difference by joining Facebook's
anti-bullying pledge, and my personal challenge to you is to
say something nice to at least one person per day. Ideally that
person will pay it forward. Words can be used to harm but they can
also be used to help. You never know when something you say to
someone will come "just when they need it."