The Grumpy Giraffe

Critiques on social and education issues

A mean email isn’t “real” bullying

This has been trending on my Facebook feed for a while, and I really want to talk about it because of a post I saw (video provided at the bottom of this post).

In the last decade, bullying has been increasingly cast in the spotlight in education and politics. For example, Dalton McGuinty, premier of Ontario, had proposed an anti-bullying law (which passed), even though it covers nothing about the roots of bullying.

1 point for effort.

Teens like James Hubley (Ottawa) committed suicide because of kids bullying him for his sexual orientation. His suicide, along with others scattered in the States, has propelled discussion about bullying and anti-bullying initiatives.

However, is it enough to dish out policies? Most policies claiming to deal with the problem of bullying are very superficial, and transparently only to pull votes for the next election.

The bigger problem is: why do bullies choose to bully?

That question is enough to start up a whole dissertation, so I will target something more specific. Recently, I have seen this on my Facebook, ridiculing the issue of bullying.

It is this type of mindset, thinking that “oh it’s just an email, I shouldn’t let it get to me”, that is hindering the efficacy of anti-bullying initiatives, and educators helping them. Children already think that adults don’t see their issues as legitimate problems; they think adults must think their issues are trivial enough. Why should they bother to look for help? It’s just an email.

But it isn’t just an email. Especially in today’s day and age, where technology is quite dominant in our lives, an email is no longer a casual way of communication. In the ultra-democratic society called the Internet, the casual messages are public. An email is considered the more formal and serious method of communication on the Internet: it’s private. Email says “I’m targeting you of all people with my message.” Why would you not be upset over an email?

The point is that she was bringing up this seemingly trivial issue to the surface. Most bullying takes the form of something “trivial”, like not letting you join their game of tag, or not letting you sit with a certain group at a lunch table, or plain ignoring you. The mindset of “oh a mean email is nothing compared to being beaten up on a playground” is contributing to the problem.

Kids and educators are both being prevented access to anti-bullying assistance because kids already think their bullying issues are trivial (they’re only ignoring me, maybe because they don’t think I’m cool. I’m sure everyone’s had this once in a while. Maybe if I do this I’ll impress him/her, etc). Jennifer wanted to bring this up to let people know that bullying can look like small issues, but she wants to prevent it before they escalate into something else. 

She’s using the email as a vehicle to communicate, and not necessarily being like “obesity’s totally fine”. Obesity is a common issue among today’s youth, yeah, so there’s a lot of chance that kids are being made fun of for their physical and personality traits. However, she’s using the email as a device to tell people not to judge by social standards, but to love yourself for who you are. Obesity is a side issue; self-esteem was the core issue.

Picking out the small, insignificant details and ignoring the bigger picture is not critique. That’s just nitpicking. It’s also unfair to deem her message and her presentation as “a joke” solely because of the example she used. It’s an example. Of course it isn’t going to be a comprehensive study of all manifestations of bullying.

We need to stop thinking that “real” bullying is only what the whole playground can see. With technology being so rampant today, bullying can be everywhere, and it doesn’t even have to be personal. How many times have we seen diet/weight-loss ads shunning those who are above a size 2?

The problem is that we aren’t upset enough. Kids need to know that we care, that we don’t see their problems as these little bumps along the road. We need to get upset. We need to care.

We need to say, “Hey, the problems you have are real to you and to me, and we’re going to try and fix it together.”


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This entry was posted on October 4, 2012 by in education, school, society and tagged , , , .


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