Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thoughts on Cyber Bullying

I had a hard time as an elementary student. I got teased a lot because of my wavy hair and thick lips. I remember this one instance in Civics class when our teacher was discussing the physical characteristics of an Ita or Aeta, in the middle of discussing the characteristics a couple of my boy classmates pointed at me and laughed. They were saying “Katrina is an Aeta, with thick lips and dishevelled hair..hahaha” If you don’t know what Aetas are, Aetas are the earliest indigenous inhabitants of the Philippines their main characteristics as per my civics book was they tend to have features such as curly hair, dark brown skin, small nose, thick lips and small stature. And I guess for some reason my classmates saw those characteristics in me.

My boy classmates ridiculed me day in and day out. They even pull my wavy hair up and laughed away with their whole clique, it was entertainment for them. I was so self conscious with my thick lips and hair that when I was in the canteen I walked so fast that I often dropped my food or utensils because I was in a hurry to get out of that place and basically did not want to exist. Because of the routine bullying I started putting my hair in a bun and I also hid my ugly aeta lips by covering my mouth with a handkerchief. I did a handful of oral recitation with my handkerchief covering my mouth. Ordered my lunch, talked to some some girl classmates, greeted the guard with a handkerchief covered mouth. I felt comfortable hiding that faulty physical trait from the eyes of my bullies. 

That was a daily happening that went on for years. And because of that self conscious attitude I did not have the courage to make friends with anyone. I was basically a loner during my elementary days. My outlook changed when I transferred to a new high school, I found people who accepted me for who I am. They were nice enough to invite me to eat with them during a break. These small gestures made a big impact to my social skills and confidence. I will be forever grateful to my high school friends who proved to me that indeed it will get better. 
(I would also like to thank Angelina Jolie for beautifying the pouty lips --- suddenly what they called thick lips are “in”)

For some it does get better but for a number of teens they just can’t deal with the pain and hardships of being bullied and their solution is suicide. Sadly bullying now is not only limited in the realm of a classroom, it goes further into social networking sites, it is now known as Cyber Bullying. Cyber Bullying is an act of harming, harassing and embarrassing people with the use of internet related media like social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtubes and some other forms. It is harder to tackle Cyberbullying because these bullies often cloaked their identity while they taunt their subject.

Despite the new media, victims of cyber bullying undergo the same humiliation and intimidation of regular bully victims. Sometimes the pain is even greater because the humiliation is not confined in a classroom but the internet sphere where people from all walks of life can judge and comment without knowing the full story. And in cyber bullying you can be an online target of a complete stranger. You will be bullied for the sake of bullying.

Sadly this phenomenon is spreading like a virus. There is no “one size fits all” advise for bullied kids. We cannot appease all those bullied kids with one message of love and “hang in there” messages. I believe one of the things that we should do is to raise awareness of tolerance. We should teach kids to accept and understand the diversity in culture, language, color, size and preference. Make people more empathetic rather than apathetic, this is just one of the steps to at least lessen this phenomenon.