February 24th had the students at Prairie Waters Elementary school decked out in pink to show their support for the anti-bullying movement known as ‘Pink Shirt Day’.
Bullying has taken on a whole new life of its own since the days of piggy tail pulling and name calling. Sure, that level of bullying still continues and it’s not ok now and it wasn’t ok then – but with the creature of social media, bullying can now be done ‘anonymously’ and give those doing the bullying the cowardly pleasure of hiding behind a device and saying whatever they want without considering the consequences or how the people on the other side of those hurtful words might actually feel.
Schools, businesses and many other organizations take February 24th as a day to show that bullying will not be tolerated and must stop. Prairie Waters Elementary, along with other Chestermere schools, held an anti-bullying assembly where some of the youth of YELL (Youth Encouraging Last Leadership) gave an educational and powerful presentation on bullying.
Students were shown the difference between conflict and bullying and how to help diffuse these situations in a mature and appropriate fashion. Of course, people will always run into situations where they don’t see eye to eye – emotions run high and especially if it is something they are passionate about – but just because you don’t agree, does not give anyone the right to say hurtful things, threaten people or call each other names.
The example of conflict that the YELL members acted out was showing two friends on a playground at recess that couldn’t decide on what game to play. After some discussion, the two friends came to a peaceful resolution in that they found a way to combine the games they each wanted to play into one game.
When it was time to showcase an instance of bullying the scene was a teen walking down a school hallway carrying textbooks and another teen forcefully slamming the books out of his hand and then screaming at him that he was a ‘looser’ and that he would always be a looser – while laughing and pointing at him.
It was interesting to watch as when the young elementary students witnessed the example of conflict, some of the enactment made them giggle. But as they watched the bullying scenario play out – no one laughed. Their young faces actually showed looks of compassion and sadness for what they were watching. And when the bullying scene was repeated to show how a bystander could get involved to stand up to the bully, the students erupted into applause when the bully walked away from the situation.
The students were also taught the different forms of bullying. Physical, verbal, social/emotional and cyber. Physical bullying includes hitting, kicking, punching and the destroying or damaging of someone else’s property. Verbal is things like name calling, teasing, intimidation and insults. Social and emotional bullying also called “relational bullying”, includes behavioural actions designed to harm a someone’s reputation or cause humiliation, like lying and spreading rumours, negative facial gestures, playing mean jokes to embarrass or humiliate someone, mimicking in a mean way or encouraging social exclusion.
Then there’s cyber bullying which includes taunting or humiliation through social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or the Internet, cruel websites targeting specific people or groups, humiliating others while playing online games, verbal or emotional bullying through chat rooms, instant message or texting, posting photos of others on rating websites, etc. Did you know that according to stopabully.ca, 51% of all teens have had negative experience with social networking? Cyber bullying is a totally different creature as it gives a bully access 24/7 to those youth and adults that they set their sights on.
The effects of bullying on youth can be traumatic and long-lasting. Victims of bullying can show a range of emotional, behavioural, physical and relationship problems. In extreme cases, bullying can lead to suicide. Bullying is very serious, and its impact on children and youth must be taken seriously. The saying ‘kids will be kids’ is no longer acceptable as hurtful comments, exclusion and any of the other forms of bullying is not ok…. And needs to stop.
The YELL members gave each of the students a paper heart and asked them to crumple it up. The youth then asked the students to try and get the wrinkles out of the heart – and when the students could not, the youth made the comparison that just as those wrinkles can’t come out of their paper hearts, hurtful words can also leave damaging marks on someone’s actual heart. Even if you are sorry for what you have said, the damage has already been done and often is not forgotten.
“People need to realize bullying has just as much of an impact online because words are so cutting and difficult to deal with”, Bridgit Mendler.