Despite all of the education and intolerance of bullying, it continues to rear its ugly head in school yards and offices. Meanwhile, the biggest breeding ground of bullies is online, where virtually anyone can hide behind a screen of harmful words.
“We do a lot with it but it still exists,” said Doug Rogers, a counsellor in the Vernon School District.
To help the battle against bullying, Wednesday is declared Pink Shirt Day. It’s a chance to stand up against bullying by wearing a pink shirt and committing to a bully-free lifestyle.
RCMP Cst. Kathy Szoboticsanec works with the schools and says despite all efforts, bullying is still very much a fact of life for students.
This year, she presented to all of the Grade 6 and 7 students in Vernon, where she took a quick survey on who has been bullied, who has witnessed bullying and who has been a bully.
“It is very interesting as there is always a large show of hands for the victims (who has been bullied) and the witnesses (bystander),” said Szoboticsanec.
“After they see the hands of a few brave and honest individuals who admit to being a bully at some point, many more hands go up, like half. It is safe to say that everyone has been impacted by bullying.”
Some kids don’t even know they’re bullying, said Rogers of behaviour which one may not even realize is harmful.
“It manifests itself probably in kindergarten with kids who aren’t tolerant with sharing and others views.”
When it comes to one’s differences, Rogers urges parents to teach kids to be accepting.
“If they’re homosexual or they have purple hair, they’re just different,” he said.
Whether it happens in school or occurs online, Rogers explains that there are different types of bullying, such as overt and covert.
“Then there’s exclusion bullying – ‘don’t talk to that kid, leave that kid out of it,’” said Rogers, where things may look fine from the outside but truly are not.
Wednesday is a reminder that youth and adults need to take a stand against any and all forms of bullying.
“I like to encourage students to become powerful and take a stand,” said Szoboticsanec.
“Empowerment is key. Be the voice. Tell someone, if you see someone being bullied, help him/her out. Don’t be a part of the cycle. We want to help. If we don’t know about it, we can’t do anything.”
In fact, Szoboticsanec is seeing change.
“I have seen some very nasty comments put out on social media but then followed up with some incredibly positive and caring comments telling the bully that the comments are unacceptable and will be reported. Kids are starting to recognize that once something is posted, it is out there for the world to see.”
Parents are urged to talk to their kids if they are feeling unsafe.
“Ask how they are feeling and why. Are there reasons beyond bullying,” said Szoboticsanec, urging parents to recognize the signs of anxiety and if their kids are feeling depressed. “Sometimes we have to peel the layers of the onion to get to the core.”
On the other hand, parents also play a large role in shaping their child’s attitudes and behaviours, which is where Rogers urges them to not only model good behaviour but enforce it.
He points to texting and online commenting, where he tells his own children that if they wouldn’t let their dad see it, then it’s not appropriate.
“If I can’t read it, don’t write it.”
For more information and resources, visit pinkshirtday.ca