V. >> The other day, while navigating another mommy blog, I stumbled upon a blog post about this new website designed to help victims of bullying find solutions to their problems. Being on the frontlines of bullying, and it being my job to help kids with these issues every day, you would think that I would be happy to see that a new site was now open! But actually, it was the opposite. The minute that I read the catch-phrase from the website, I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was immediately sceptical about whether or not this site was actually a good place for victims of bullying to go to.
“Sometimes you need to be a bully to beat a bully.” This is the mantra that the designer of this site proudly inscribed on the top of his front page. All I could think was “what the fuck?”
Who is this web designer? Is he an expert on bullying? No, actually… he’s a former military man. A father who had been bullied and doesn’t want his own children to go through what he had to go through. I congratulate him for actually getting out there and trying to do something positive to help prevent further harm from being done to all of our children. It’s not easy to know what to say, and how to help children that are getting bullied. However, I can’t stop but question his methods.
Let’s get this straight: there is not one fix-all solution that will end bullying for all children. Sometimes, you need to try a few things before you find what works. Sometimes you have to do the same thing over and over again until the bully gets the hint and backs off. Sometimes you need to get adults to help, sometimes it’s best to deal with things one on one.
Let’s talk about retaliation. Retaliation is dangerous. Hate breeds hate and defending yourself can be hard when you don’t have the chutzpah or social support to back you up. That’s why as professionals we are always careful what we suggest to kids, and retaliation is RARELY part of the solution.
More often than not, when bullied teenagers try to retaliate, they only get more hurt. Tell the scrawny kid that he has to pick a fight with his mammoth bully, he’s probably going to have his ass handed to him. Tell a shy teenager that he or she has to stand up for him/herself and insult his or her group of bullies back, and they’ll probably only scream louder. Try to defend yourself from cyber-bullying by embarrassing your bully with a webpage, or trying to turn people on him or her, you might never want to go online ever again. Yes, sometimes, in certain contexts, fighting fire with fire can be part of the solution. But it’s rarely the case.
What I know about teens is that when they get onto a website they never read the instructions. I know this because I get emails and chats from kids all the time where we have to remind them about the rules of the website of the organization I work with. Therefore, when a teen gets onto the website, it’s probably a really bad idea for him or her to see this mantra flashing in their face at first glance.
Finally, some methods advocated on the website are great: providing children with a group of support is awesome. But is this forum moderated by a professional who knows how to deal with issues as they come onto the website? I never found an answer. Kids can tell each other the craziest things when they are trying to support each other. And as a parent, I would want to know if my child was being protected while seeking support.
For all of these reasons, I just can’t support this website. There’s not enough info for me to feel confident about who I’m entrusting these children to.
Here are some resources that I do trust and support:
If you’re in Australia: http://www.kidshelpline.com.au
If you’re in Canada: http://www.kidshelpphone.ca
In the United States: http://www.nineline.org
In France : http://www.allo119.gouv.fr
In the UK : http://www.childline.org.uk/Pages/Home.aspx
For any other country, please contact Child Help Line International for a list of quality, supported helplines and resources : http://www.childhelplineinternational.org