On the morning of 11 August, I turned on the TV to see a story that has sadly become an all too common story: 11-year-old Ty Field was being bullied, so severely and so relentlessly that he felt his only way to escape it was to commit suicide. It’s the same story that happened a few years ago to Megan Meier, who was bullied over MySpace to the point where she hanged herself in her closet.
In fact, a simple Google search of “bully suicide” produces nearly 1.7 million hits. Story after story about teenage kids bullied to the point where they have no other choice but to kill themselves. Stories about kids like Phoebe Prince, who killed herself after being tormented by a clique of high school girls; or Jon Carmichael, who killed himself after being bullied by most of his school; or even Jared High, who killed himself in 1998 because of bullying. A website about Jared links to several other kids and teens who have committed suicide due to bullying.
In the MSNBC interview I saw with Ty’s father, the question was asked, “Why are so many kids committing suicide today? What is different about your generation than this generation?”
The response was, “Part of it is all of these violent video games.” I cursed out loud.
As someone who was bullied in my younger days (and at times am still bullied today), I can assure everyone that it is not violent video games that make people violent. It does not desensitize people to violence, it doesn’t create violent people. Study after study after study has proven that there is no link between violence and video games. It is a foolish assumption that television, movies, video games, and music can completely change a person’s character. Violent people are predisposed to violence.
But Ty’s father continued his answer: “It is also the technology of the age. Bullies are now able to torment their victims 24/7.”
I immediately apologized. It was the wisest thing I’ve heard about bullying yet. Technologies like Facebook and MySpace, which are accessible whenever, along with Internet anonymity, provide a whole new avenue of bullying which has never been seen before. Anyone can be anyone else and can say whatever they want, and they feel like there are no consequences.
Lori Drew, when creating a fake MySpace account, thought she would just mess with Megan Meier to get back at Megan for spreading rumors about her daughter. The result was suicide.
How do we solve the problem of bullying? Short answer: we can’t.
We can’t because as of right now, there is no concrete definition of “bullying.” The definition we have is: “act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person, physically or mentally.”
This happens every day, not out of hatred, and not out of abuse, but out of kids being kids. Kids will hate other kids over stupid things, and as a result, they will make fun of and torment other kids. It happens, and it only gets out of control when people don’t intervene.
But who should intervene? The schools are doing all they can, and there is a stigma of being a snitch when reporting instances of bullying.
Like most problems with children, the responsibility lies in the parents. Parents should make sure that they are raising kids in a positive environment, and to notice when their kids are not quite right. Kids don’t just wake up one morning and are violent, just like they just don’t wake up one morning and swear. It comes from somewhere, and many times, it comes from the home.
Ty’s father said, “No one sits at the dinner table and talks anymore.” Shouldn’t we get back to that?