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How Bullying Has Changed Through The Years

Posted by Lisa LaGrou March 5, 2012 OCM Blog

Is bullying worse now than it used to be? This isn’t meant to be a silly question, I genuinely want some opinions as to how much worse (if at all) the bullying issue is now compared to when people my age went to school.

On the surface, school bullying appears to be an epidemic. The recent stories of kids, even elementary school-aged kids, resorting to suicide to end the torment of bullies is heartbreaking. Having a “quiet, keeps to himself” teen march into a high school to settle the score with his bullies via gunfire is equally shocking to me. Headlines like those are enough to make just about anyone think that bullying problems are far worse than they used to be. Is the news really that bad?

We know social media now allows bullies to torment their victims during all hours of the day. When I was in school, bullying victims had to worry about what was going to take place during school hours and the bus rides to and from school. Maybe bullying now is worse because the audience for the bullying “show” is far greater where as bullying then was more isolated?

I have vivid memories of bullies from when I was in elementary school, junior high school and high school. There seemed to be an awful lot of bullying back when I was in school. I remember feeling helpless watching someone else get bullied. I wasn’t alone. It seemed that most kids and teachers back then just wouldn’t step in to help anyone being bullied. Looking back, it feels like people just didn’t care. I was teased a little in those days but I can’t recall being tormented quite like awful stories I read about seemingly each day “nowadays”.

The difference with bullying now as opposed to when I was in school was that there was virtually “no place to go” with your problems. It seems I went to school in an age where teachers and parents turned a blind eye to problems. There was little contact between teachers and parents and there certainly weren’t any school initiatives like there are now to prevent bullying. Kids somehow had to “just deal with it” when it came to the bullying issue.

In some ways, you could argue that things may be getting better when it comes to how children handle the bullying cycle. Schools today seem to be at least trying to get better at early intervention to prevent bullying and parents are now paying closer attention now than they ever did to the issue than when I was going through school. If the initiatives are now in place, why does it feel like the bullying problem is worse? Is it media sensationalism? Or, are we trying harder now but still failing to correct the bullying problem?

My kids are in the early phases of their academia – early elementary school. My own observations are that kids and my kids’ elementary school are far more accepting now than kids were at my age. Kids with special needs or kids that may be deemed “pudgy” or “different” seem to be treated (thankfully) as equals and not ostracized or bullied.

I have a friend, a long-time high school English teacher at a large local district, who says kids are far more likely to “get involved” than kids would years ago if they witness an act of bullying and that the “usual targets” of yesterday are treated with more compassion than they were when I was in school.

While news about anti-bullying legislation and schools becoming proactive in regards to bullying is refreshing, my optimism from it is dashed with every new suicide by bully or Columbine-like story.

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Are anti-bullying measures working? If recent suicide or school shootings headlines are an indicator, we have a long way to go. It’s frustrating for me to think back to ”back in the day” and realize there wasn’t a lot done to solve any of the bullying problems. It’s even more frustrating for me to think all this effort now is going toward helping the problem and the system is still failing. What’s it going to take?

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