By BELINDA KUO
“I think she’s crazier than a serial killer on bath salts,” says Cheryl Blossom about Polly Cooper in the television show Riverdale.
From exaggerated media portrayals of high school to our everyday lives, degrading gossip about others is commonplace. In fact, many students may accept it as “part of life.”
However, gossip is not and should not be a “part of life.” According to StopBullying.gov, bullying is “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance” that “can be physical, verbal [or] relational.” As such, “spilling the tea” and even seemingly harmless gossip can be considered bullying. Yet, many people sweep these instances of bullying under the rug for the sake of normalcy to avoid being left out.
As a society, we should strictly enforce what constitutes bullying and be more aware of the consequences our actions have on others.
Considering how fast information spreads through social media, gossip passes around in mere seconds and can effectively destroy a person’s reputation. While some believe that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” words can hurt people. If you hear the same hurtful comments over and over again, it becomes hard to build your own character. In addition, since our society emphasizes the need for acceptance, people may lose confidence in themselves. Without acceptance from peers, a person may want to portray a different version of themselves to be acknowledged in a clique. This pressure is especially detrimental during the middle and high school years, when students are discovering and building their character.
With such a relevant and widespread issue, it seems peculiar that high schools place less emphasis on anti-bullying education. In fact, other than the occasional lessons from teachers to “be kind to others,” bullying has never been thoroughly addressed in high school. Simply put, a mere “safe zone” poster or a number to a helpline is not adequate. For students to cope with and eventually overcome the effects of bullying, anti-bullying education and support networks must be implemented.
As someone who has been bullied, I am especially aware of the importance of bullying prevention and adult support. When I was bullied in middle school, I tried to talk to teachers and administrators, but a teacher merely told me to “suck it up” and accept it as just the bully’s personality. Meanwhile, the counselors simply asked me and the bully to sign a contract. As she continued to bully me, I only felt more isolated and helpless. I began to question: if it was just the bully’s personality, why was she only doing this to me? In turn, the counselor and teacher’s ineffective assistance made me think that bullying was an unconquerable problem that I should have simply accepted as reality.
Ultimately, schools should not leave victims of bullying “hanging” for proper assistance. Thus, students and adults on campus must learn how to acknowledge and address cases of bullying, because if not, I fear bullying may become even worse. A cohesive support system from adults and proper anti-bullying education would generate students who are more understanding and aware of their hurtful actions. In particular, anti-bullying education can help create a student-teacher relationship that assures students that they have someone to talk to. By teaching about bullying, we can understand how our actions can have unintentional consequences and encourage adults to support their students more effectively.
In a perfect society, bullying would not occur, but this is clearly not the case. All we can do is bring attention to this important issue and be more critical of our approach towards bullying. While bullying will always be present— and unfortunately may never stop— we can control its occurrence, starting with identifying our own and others’ toxic behavior.