Clearwater Times editorial by Stephanie Hagenaars

Anti-bullying isn’t just for kids

This week we celebrated Pink Shirt Day, a day that has become a worldwide phenomenon, where people wear the colour pink to show they won’t tolerate bullying.

The movement originated in a Nova Scotian high school when a couple of students brought in pink shirts to disperse to classmates and support a student who had been bullied.

That was in 2007. Fourteen years later, bullying is still a major problem – not only in schools but at the workplace, at home and particularly over the internet.

Hot-button topics, such as political affiliation and marijuana legalization, have created a growing divide in our communities, and social media apps, like Facebook, Reddit and Twitter, have led to a new age in bullying not experienced by those who grew up in the pre-internet generation.

Even the COVID-19 pandemic is creating division which has been exacerbated through these online channels.

The rise of the internet has also allowed for an insidious form of cyberbully that allows perpetrators to remain nameless and faceless. Canada, for instance, has the ninth-highest rate of bullying among 13-year-olds. Across the country, close to half of Canadian parents report their child has been bullied at least once.

It’s not surprising. In the past year, we’ve witnessed scare tactics from people attempting to frighten their neighbours into following B.C.’s Public Health Orders by sharing stories about sick friends, without any proof, and with the end goal of fear into submission. New insults and names have been typed into the comment sections of our friends’ and neighbours’ posts, and even onto the social media page of this newspaper.

These are consciously typed out by adults into public forums, free to be seen by anyone who stumbles across it.

Bullying isn’t a genetic disorder, it is learned behaviour from adults to their children. And although we have made strides over the years, more can always be done.

We don’t always know who is on the other side of the screen. One person can be targeted, causing them to feel isolated and alone. Too often that feeling of loneliness and isolation leads to depression, anxiety, social phobias and low self-esteem.

In many respects, our children are lucky to live in this technological age. But it’s up to us to model the behaviour we want to see and be the example that we wish to see in others.

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