Irish man sets up intiative to support those who have been bullied at school or work
When you become a parent you realise an instinct to protect and preserve the wellbeing of your child, an instinct that at times can be overwhelming.
Women protect themselves throughout pregnancy and as soon as that little bundle arrives in your arms you embark on a mission of safeguarding them from any possible hazard – sterilising bottles, safety clips on presses, covering plug sockets. However some things are out of our hands and may go unnoticed, these ‘hazards’, are caused by others and can infiltrate the very fabric of the security blanket you have worked so hard to weave. I refer to the hazards and dangers bullying can play on the social and emotional security of our family. A hazard where the collateral damage is devastating and far reaching.
Traditionally we may have associated bullying with school yard politics but in this, the digital age bullying has become easier to commit and harder to detect. In fact social research statistics state that the occurrences of online bullying rises steeply with age and 68% of all parents did not know their child had been bullied on line*.
Some parents may take the stance of not permitting their child to have a social media profile. However as your children get older this may become harder to enforce, if they want one they will find a way to get it and may do so behind your back.
It is therefore up to us to equip ourselves with online know-how! Knowing what privacy settings are available and activating parental controls where and when necessary.
The power of social media must also be made clear. We have been educated to reduce our carbon footprint, today it is our Digital Footprint we must be mindful of, as that can be nigh on impossible reverse and equally earth shattering. Many employers today spend time reviewing prospective employee’s social media habits in advance of granting employment.
Bullying is also (unfortunately) prevalent in our workplaces. With 48% of people bullied in the workplace indicating the negative effect it had on their life outside work and 60% considered quitting their jobs altogether*.
Also I have wondered how the bullying affects the bully! Surely there are negative consequences for them too. Apart from bullying being linked to a range of factors from social and emotional immaturity to possibly sadistic behaviour, the studies show that a high proportion of people who bully do not fare well in life afterwards. In the United States it is estimated that one quarter of all individuals who partake in bullying at elementary school will have a criminal conviction by the age of 30.
Countering this socially and emotionally devastating trend is always a challenge, however it is a challenge that must be faced head on and en-masse.
Recently I learned of an initiative called ‘I’m a Friend’, (IAF), founded by Tullamore native, Charlie Wynne. Charlie himself was a victim of bullying, a time in his life that cost him dearly. However (and luckily), Charlie chose to take a proactive stance on the issue.
‘I’m a Friend’, is aimed at bringing support to all people who find themselves being bullied at school, work, play or at home by calling on all of us to be part of a society where friends look out for friends.
Individuals and organisations are asked to wear and display the ‘I’m a Friend’ symbol, ‘the eye’ to show that they
- do not agree with bullying behaviour,
- do not accept that it is ok for others to bully them and
- that they will support the victims of bullying.
I know there will be times that I will not be there to protect my child, a thought that would keep any parent up at night. It is my hope through AgriKids that I am equipping the next generation of farmer to create a sustainably safer future on our farms.
For those other threats perpetrated by the behaviours of others, I do take comfort in knowing that with I’m A Friend my family, my friends and myself will consciously look out for each other and make it harder for the activities of bullies and trolls to survive in our society.
For more on getting involved see www.imafriend.com
*O’Neill, B., & Dinh,T. (2013). Cyberbullying Among 9-16 year old children in Ireland.
DIT Centre for Social and Educational Research.
ERSI Report on “Bullying in the Workplace (2007)