I remember vividly being bullied and harassed as a kid. I was overweight, poor and awkward. I liked to read and got good grades. I also had some family issues that other kids knew about. Some of the kids were awesome about these things and some were very cruel.
I remember getting beaten up more than a few times. I remember getting prank calls from other kids again and again and again until I unplugged all the phones in the house just to get some quiet. Hoping the quiet could make me feel better and that the kids who did this sort of thing would move on to someone else.
Kids today can’t unplug in the same way. If children want to bully, they can do it online 24/7 on their Facebook wall or someone else’s. The digital spaces that are so useful are also spaces where bullying and harassment can fester and grow – anonymous, quickly, viral. According to PREVNet.ca (Canada’s authority on research and resources for bullying prevention), 94% of Canadian youth have a Facebook account. 87% have a cell phone by grade ten. 7 out of every 10 sites our kids visit are social media, and nearly half of the kids who are classified as “in distress” report involvement in cyber bullying or traditional bullying.
Let this sink in for a second – over 40% of our youth report seeing racist or sexist content online every single day.
And it is not just kids that are victims of this sort of thing. As an adult – even as a social worker – I’ve been bullied in previous work environments and online, by people who should know better. The problem persists in so many facets of our society.
It is easy to feel powerful – especially in anonymous online forums – and it is easy to take advantage of others in these ways.
It is harder to stand up with a good mind and a good heart. But it’s so important that we do.
That’s why I love the #GoodMindsStandUp initiative.
It speaks to empowering all of us to live better lives – whether we are the bully or the bullied. It has a flavor of the language of social justice, but it’s presented in a way that could help anyone of any age.
It also teaches us about healthy relationships and resiliency – two of the most important factors we can promote to help stop bullying and live more fulfilling and truthful lives.
#GoodMindsStandUp calls on us to act, not hide and ignore as other programs in the past have suggested. In my experience, nothing changes from inactivity. We all have a role to play in creating a better world – one where we can all stand up stronger together.
Marc Laferriere is a Social Worker and Educator with over a decade of experience in the fields of helping, teaching, media and social justice.
By Marc Laferriere MSW, RSW