In my first book, The Last Surviving Dinosaur: The TyrantoCrankaTsuris, our hero, the TyrantoCrankaTsuris got bullied by three mean bigger dinosaurs, and did not fare too well with an alligator. Ultimately, she used her own voice, and with the help of the TyrantoKvetchaTsuris, they both cranked and kvetched happily ever after.
Back in those days, there was no computers, and no cyber-bullying. And, when I grew up, we didn't have computers either. But, we were bullied, and we did some bullying of our own.
When I was in First Grade, (and throughout my youth) I had bad allergies. When hayfever season came, I was miserable. My nose was really stuffed up. So, I had lots and lots of boogers. I did. Yes. I could have blown my nose in the handkerchief my mom gave me, but she always liked to put perfume in all my handkerchiefs, and I could not take the smell.
So, I did what any other kid would do. I picked the boogers out of my nose. One of the kids in my class falsely accused me of eating my boogers, and this kid got all the other kids in the class to call me the boogie man. I did not even know what a boogie man was, but it terrified me. Almost immediately after, I saw the movie "The Fly" when this man turned into a fly so all I could think about was that I was going to turn into a giant booger!!
In Seventh Grade, I admit I did some bullying of my own. I had been going to a Jewish private school, and that year, my parents took me out of that school, and put me into public school. In a new school, and with no friends, I was the prime target for the most annoying kid in the class to glom on to me.
Everyone in the class knew how annoying he was and knew to stay away. But, I did not know any better. He immediately announced that not only was he going to be my friend, he was going to be my best friend. He suffocated me. He just glued on, and I just couldn't get away from him. He was like gum stuck in my hair. He was a pimple that I would squeeze and it would just get bigger and bigger. And, he would say over and over and over again that I was his best friend in the whole wide world. He reminded me of that every single day. "Hello, Best Friend!!!"
I realized that, at the age of 12, you can actually have a Siamese twin, just attach on to you. No matter what I said, he would not get away from me. Finally, I just beat him up.
I thought that would work. But, even that failed. He liked getting beat up. I finally gave up and was stuck with him until High School.
In High School, I joined a bowling league. My bowling ball was my most prized possession. I loved my ball more than anything. But, like everyone else's balls, I had my initials engraved "SNJ".
It takes only one kid to start it, but one kid started calling me "SNIDGE", like snitch. I understand that there are some really cool nicknames. SNIDGE or Snitch was not one of them.
The names really bothered me more than anything. But, back then, nobody cared about name calling. All they would tell you is that "Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones, But Names Will Never Hurt You!"
In my house, the focus was not on names, but learning how to fight. My father would put my brother and me on the terrace, and lock the terrace door, and tell us to fight with each other. That was my father's idea to teach us how to fight.
Unfortunately, my brother was older, bigger, and much stronger than me, and while I did not learn how to fight, I did learn how to take a punch and scream "Open up the Door!!!".
Teachers also was not focused on name calling and that kind of bullying. I had one teacher who always asked kids hurt by words ask "Are you over your feelings yet?"
These days, we have cyber bullying, and teachers thankfully are not asking whether the kids are over their feelings. But, what generally happens is that the cyberbullying gets reported, and the whole situation ends up with the adults. The bully is pulled out and disciplined, and the student who was bullying may get counseling, but there is still the feeling that this child is left feeling alone.
I am often struck by how communities come together when acts of violence is targeted against one part of the community. If one group of faith is hurt, all the other groups of both faith and those who do not believe in a particular faith come and give their support. The message is that we are stronger together, and this act of violence will not tear us apart.
So, in schools, cyberbullying can be stopped before it happens. But, instead of a top down approach, the focus should be working from the bottom up. Each student can have four other classmates, two friends and two non-friends, for a group of five. A CrankaTsuris Bully Buddy Protection Brigade is formed. If there is an incident of cyberbullying against one, the five band together and pronounce that there was an incident, and we are together, strong and support each other. We will get together for a treat (i.e, ice cream, pizza, movie etc.), and words will only make us stronger. The other Bully Buddy Brigades also can reach out for support.
This creates community and not a feeling of helplessness, but rather, empowerment. Even the kid who has not been a cyberbully yet, but may get tempted, gets pulled into his or her own CrankaTsuris Bully Buddy Protection Brigade. Because this student has a community for protection against cyberbullying, it may give this student pause to become something he or she is protected from.
And, at the end of the school year, when the class has gone a whole year without bullying, the class can reward itself with a big party. The community as a whole comes together to celebrate.
And, in all good fun, we can let out a few CrankaTsurises because people do get on each other's nerves once in a while..
So we learned to be careful not to express our inner TyrantoCrankaTsuris too often. Just the right amount to keep the planet happy, and not too cranky.