The other day, my partner’s son told us that he needed us to buy him an iPhone so he won’t be bullied when he goes back to school. A great opportunity to discuss the topic with him. So, today’s question is: Do kids need an iPhone or any other gadget to make sure they won’t get bullied at school — or anywhere else?
Really simple answer: No, I do not think it’s a good idea for you to buy anything for your kid so they won’t get bullied. If you do that, they won’t get the opportunity to grow their character and they won’t learn an important life skill. Bullies exist, it doesn’t matter how old you are. People need to learn how to deal with unpleasant behavior — bullying or otherwise — sooner or later.
The following is intended for your child (late elementary age and up):
The question is, how are you supposed to deal with bullying? Well, the first thing you need to accept is that bullying might happen no matter what you do or what gadget you have, because people can behave in very unpleasant ways (and not only kids!). You can’t control people’s behavior. Bullies are acting out their own emotions through their behavior as they’re trying to figure out how to behave in the world. It’s pretty much impossible to avoid bullying completely but we can take steps to decrease the occurrence and the impact.
- The first thing you can do is to shut them out. You don’t want them to enter into your world. Bullies call you names, are verbally and emotionally abusive and are trying to bring you down in order to get a reaction from you. They’re looking to make you upset and as soon as you show that you’re getting upset, they get excited and then they want to keep doing it over and over again. You getting upset is EXACTLY the reaction they want to see. The best way is to just turn around, ignore them and walk away. Shut them out and don’t give them a reaction.
- The second thing you can do is to ask yourself: “Is it true what they were saying?” Even if you managed to shut them out and walked away, you may have heard some terrible things that are still going to affect you hours later. Often, you just can’t stop thinking about what they said to you and it may hurt your feelings and make you upset. The first thing you should do, after that happens, you should ask yourself, do I believe them? Is it true? Because if it’s not true, then why should it affect you? If something is not true, there is no reason for it to affect you. If someone said there are dinosaurs walking around downtown, you wouldn’t freak out and get all worried. We know it’s not true so it doesn’t have an effect.
- But what if they said something to you that might be true? Then you can use it as an opportunity to work on it. There is an old saying: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Maybe they said something hurtful that you hoped wouldn’t be brought to light? So maybe there’s some truth in some of the things they said. If that is the case, then that’s a great opportunity to take a good, hard look at yourself and work on the areas you want to keep in the dark.
- What about physical bullying? The best way to avoid getting hit is to not be there. So your primary objective, when it comes to physical bullying, is to leave: walk away. It doesn’t matter what it feels like. It’s not about pride. It’s not about showing the other kid that you’re strong and brave. It’s not about showing them that you’re in charge. You don’t have to be the one that gets hit just because you’re being bullied. You can walk away. If you got an adult involved, they would stop the fight. So you can be the adult and stop the fight by simply walking away. Now, I do strongly believe that you have the right to defend yourself. This is not something many people talk about, but you do have the right to defend yourself. If someone is trying to punch you, you can push them out of the way, but your goal is not be to fight them. The goal is to leave. You always want to use the minimum amount of force necessary to achieve your objective, which is to leave and walk away.
- You also always have the option to bring in a trusted adult. You can talk to a parent, a teacher or a person you trust. But there is a consequence to that. I believe it’s best to try and solve the bullying issue without getting anyone else involved first. If you feel it’s necessary, you can seek help. The problem you should be aware of is that if you bring in a person of authority, the bully will most likely get into trouble and then they may seek vengeance on you for it. My advice is to trying and figure out the bullying issue yourself and if you feel like it’s not improving or your physical safety is in jeopardy, then get help from an adult.
Ultimately it’s an important life skill to learn the tools to deal with bullies or even just unpleasant people in your life. They won’t go away because you finish school. The sooner you learn how to handle those situations, the better. Good luck!