In San Antonio, Texas a teenage child died recently because of his classmates were tormenting him on social media. As a society we felt sorry for the boy and his family. We struggle to understand how this could happen and what can be done about it. We struggle to implement a plan of action against a silent and anonymous enemy.
The first thought is to act in anger and lash out against these bullies. A shock and awe campaign, scaring the bullies into submission. A quick fix, a reign of terror, where we round up these “bad kids” and scare the rest into submission.
To a degree the community must respond. It must respond because it must hold those responsible accountable for the crime that they have committed. It must respond to make sure that these bad actors do not hurt another innocent child.
So will a shock and awe campaign work in the longer term? Bully’s live under their own rules, just like prisoners in a cell block. Bully’s are silent, deadly, and seek out the weak. Bully’s are use social media to mask their true identities. Bully’s will use access to public computers, create anonymous email accounts to escape being identified. They are smart, cunning and resourceful. Bully’s understand social media better than adults ever could. Bully’s could be the class president, a cheerleader or a ROTC cadet. Terror campaigns will catch a few of the bad actors AND create short term panic. A shock and awe campaign will not create a long term solution to the bullying problem.
Changing the Culture, Build Empathy
These children have little sympathy for their fellow classmates. These children do not have the ability to deal with anger, sadness and hopeless. That is not these children’s fault.
In reviewing the Stop Bullying Program in San Francisco, they engage the bully by having them learn empathy. They begin teaching at the elementary level, so the children take these skills into high school.
So empathy, lets start there. Empathy would be the foundation that we need to start building these kids emotional intelligence. It all starts with the first step.