Is Today’s Messaging Giving Permission to Bully?

Media inundates society with negative messages, impacting youth. Counteracting bullying requires awareness, dialogue, and modeling positive behavior to shape healthier values.
Teenage girlfriends looking at bullying text

As a society we have become aware of the impact of bullying. We hear stories of children and teenagers and how bullying has impacted them. As parents are attempting to raise healthy children and send them messages of self-worth and confidence, that confidence is often eroded by the bullying that occurs at school. Even some of those who have acted out violently have been fighting the element of bullying and utilizing their own acts as a sense of revenge or retaliation.

Negative Messages in Media and Society

Yet if we look at the news feeds, social media, the political ads and speeches, the online feeds, and even some commercials, we recognize these sources are replete with negative and sometimes violent messages. There are messages that support hate, prejudice, revenge, polarization, violence, oppositional-deviant behavior, violation of the law, cynicism, lewdness, and dysfunctional ways to resolve life struggles.

It seems the whole notion of working together in spite of our differences for the sake of what is good for all has been replaced with a polarizing sense of extreme opinions that are perceived as irreconcilable. It’s almost as if we should be emphasizing our disagreements and refuse to compromise. Yet the very nature of democracy and healthy human relationships demand that compromise be an essential part of any resolution.

If our media is filled with this kind of value system, it’s no wonder our youth find it easy to latch onto these same values and messages. The prevalence of these messages almost sanctions permission to adopt those values and apply them to the problems and conflicts we face with those we encounter at school, home, and in our community.

The Social Media Challenge

Most of us can remember what it was like to be a growing elementary student or teenager and having to figure out how we fit into the world in which we lived. Some of the most difficult moments happened with peers at school while we were all in the midst of some level of development.

We can now recognize that their impact often lacked judgement, was immature, and egocentric. If we mix into that development a host of opportunities to gain personal power through intimidation and bullying it’s rather easy to use those opportunities to achieve that goal.

Social media adds to the problem by introducing all kinds of values and means to leverage power over those around us through bullying. It is predictable that we currently have an epidemic of bullying with our kids if the adults are modelling it.

Parental Intervention and Awareness

The onslaught of these messages is overwhelming. It’s discouraging to see the prevalence of what’s happening around us on social media. What we can do is counter these messages to all the youth in our sphere of influence through discussions that raise awareness of the consequences of these messages.

We need to be aware of those who are bullying and work diligently with them to provide other options for conflict resolution and the ability to hold their own personal power. Parents and other caregivers should be informed about what messages their kids are receiving and be proactive to coach and care for them.

Creating a Positive Environment

We need a full court press on this issue if we’re going to prevent the bullying that is so destructive to our kids and communities. We also can set an example for our kids by not participating in the behavior that would continue to polarize others and work for acceptance, compromise and healthy responses to the problems that are difficult to resolve. That alone would help to change the trajectory of so much of the negativity that gives permission to bully others.

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