Cyber-bullying and popular culture

The Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you wish others to do unto you."

This Golden Rule is still relevant today even though the environment of bullying has changed. Bullying still concerns verbal, physical, and social aspects; however, with the development of the internet it has changed. Youth are now plagued by bullying even after they leave school and enter the safety of their homes. Cyber-bullying has become a large problem in today's society. Bullies feel much freer to say anything they want when using social media sites, such as Facebook, texting, or sending emails.

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When writing hateful messages and not actually facing those they are attacking an emotional disconnect is created. It's as if people will ignore the consequences of what they've written and sent out when not in a face to face interaction.

The person sending these messages will tend to feel disconnected from the impact they have on others; however, those receiving them can be seriously hurt. Cyber-bullying is made more difficult as the accidental use of certain punctuation or lack of an emoticon (e.g. :D), which can create uncertainty between those involved.

Good examples of what cyber-bullying is can be found in popular culture. The comedy "Glee," was not being funny when they addressed their issues of bullying. The writers focused on physical bullying and death threats to how cyber-bulling can continue to tear down someone's self esteem. In the episode "On My Way" a student attempts suicide, which results in further harassment online where peers encourage him to try again. The fact is that although comedies in popular culture address certain issues, they are serious ones that society needs to be aware of.

Pop culture has continually addressed bullying in a lighthearted manor, but they are still addressing the situation and are calling for a change. A film such as "Mean Girls" focuses on social bullying, but includes all forms. This film, though classified as a teen comedy, does bring to light how youth attempt to damage relationships and social statuses through bullying. It shows the typical ways girls tend to bully, which is through verbal and covert means.

After laughing at the extremes of these characters, the viewers tend to think about themselves in similar situations. The happy ending of the film, thus, resonates with youth. The ideas that you don't have to belong to a certain clique or be mean in order to be popular are important lessons.

Guys typically are more physical when it comes to bullying. Again pop culture has explored this as seen in "The Jonathan Wamback Story," which was based on true events in Toronto, Ontario. Yet, these different means of bullying are not always gender specific.

A new American documentary directed by Lee Hirsch called "Bully," which has now been released, focuses on four youths and the impact of bullying on them. It focuses on their perspectives and the feelings that they deal with while being bullied. The documentary also shows how certain situations are ignored by people in the lives of these youths, thereby enabling the bullies. For example, one way to explain boys physically harassing another boy is to simply say that: "It's just boys being boys."

Boys may like to be more physical, but there is a difference between bullying and being physical. Sports can be a place for physical aggression to be released, but the playground or the school bus is not. This is especially evident when one person is being singled out amongst the rest repeatedly or when one student continually harasses those around them.

In reality, popular culture reflects what surrounds our society. If there are television shows, Hollywood movies, and documentaries being made it is because that is relevant to today's world.

Bullying is a very serious issue, which Carlyle schools are going to bring awareness to with an Anti-Bullying Day on Friday, May 2, 2012. They will also be ordering approximately 100 extra shirts and will be selling them for a minimum of $10. This is a donation towards furthering the anti-bully initiative and will assist in covering the costs of the event this year, but will also bring in additional speakers for the next school year. If you would like one of these please contact Bryce Birch, teacher at Gordon F. Kells.

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