“Hurt people hurt people” and what we can do to lessen the amount of cyberbullying.

What are some of the factors leading to bullying/cyberbullying and what can be done about it?

For bullying to happen there needs to be a bully and a victim. We never want to think that our child may be the bully, however we need to understand that bullying is first and foremost an expression of someone struggling with some degree of pain or personal conflict and turmoil. While this never excuses the bullying  we need to understand that whatever the root motivation for bullying is, it comes from a place of hurt. The adage, “hurt people, hurt people” rings true for the vast majority of bullies.

The American Association for the Positive Care of Children have identified 10 reasons for bullying:

  1. Powerlessness.
  2. Being bullied by others.
  3. Jealousy and frustration.
  4. Lack of acceptance.
  5. Lack of empathy.
  6. Seeking attention.
  7. Volatile home life.
  8. Need for control.
  9. Bad behavior that has been rewarded.
  10. Difficulty in regulating emotions.

This list reveals two main thoughts to ponder on for me.

  1. Bullying is less likely to happen if we have healthier home lives. If children feel safe, engaged, affirmed, disciplined (constructive correction rather than punitive punishment), given healthy ways to express their feelings and shown how to value and appreciate others they are less likely to victimize another person.
  2. How have we developed a culture of criticism that has infused itself into people thinking their words have no consequences? Through social media we have taken our “right to expression” to the point that we forget that while we have the right to share our views and opinions, we shouldn’t do that without exercising a responsibility for what we say and the potential consequences on others.

Bullying will always happen in a context and context is interpreted or expressed through cultural perception, our personal family cultural perspective in particular. If your child is the bully, then you will need to explore what is happening in their life or examine what your home life is like and what may need to change.

Likewise we need to understand the popular cultural context that our children live in and, how do we prepare them for it? Not to be like the rest but how do they engage their world without losing who they are as people, their morals, values and ethics.  Do we endorse tv shows, magazine articles and websites that compare, criticise and degrade people for what they wear, how they look, sound or act? While the show Idols revealed some amazing talent, how much bullying happened to those who were not the package that the judges wanted? Those cringe worthy acts, that I would have qualified as- that make the bloopers reel and crush dreams. Or the “who wore it better” shows and articles, do we want our children to activate the heart of those shows in their social contexts?

If we take this into the cyber reality, we see the rise of online challenges that include “Rating and captioning” pics. This includes degrading, flirty, sexual or affirming comments on pics posted either by an individual or someone else. Comparisons whereby a class group might take a poll to decide who is the “stinkiest, fattest, slowest, dumbest, least liked/popular” etc. are then shared on social media. This form of bullying is enhanced by the herd mentality that isolates the victim and inflicts a devastating wound to the self-esteem of the victim.

Sticks and stones may break my bones.

But words can also hurt me.

Sticks and stones break only skin,

While words are ghosts that haunt me.

Pain from words has left its scar

On mind and heart that’s tender,

Cuts and bruises now have healed,

It’s words that I remember.


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