By Clara Middleton
Yesterday I was at a picnic Easter egg hunt. A friend of mine, the mother of a ten-year old boy, came up to me at some point very upset. She showed me these slips of paper that were placed inside eggs by a group of girls – two sisters and a toady – and thrown at her son:
My friend and I talked to her son, the girls, and other kids who had seen what had happened. The story as we gathered was this: The group of girls had had a head start and collected almost all the eggs, which were about thirty. Most other kids had just walked away while my friend’s son had insisted on collecting his share and had found only five. He had objected to the girls and they had taunted and made fun of him. He in turn had gotten angry and chased them telling them that he would give them a black eye. They had run away, taunting him some more from a distance. He had cried out of frustration and said that they should apologize to him. Then the girls had placed these notes inside empty eggs and thrown them at him. “Here’s your apology,” they had said.
To update this site I look at a great deal of news items about children. Because of my son’s situation I have also been doing research on bullying. What I have found is that verbal bullying – cyber bullying when it is done online – is a very serious and widespread violence that younger and younger children are inflicting on each other. This violence is driving kids and teenagers to suicide. This is terribly serious. The messages that were put inside the eggs for my friend’s son are exactly the kind of things kids say to each other to inflict utmost hurt. And just like it happened with this boy, there are usually a group of kids who band together and attack one kid. (Look at this story, for example.)
When I talked to the group of nice kids who had happened to witness what went on between my son’s friend and the girls I pointed out to them that this exact wording is what some kids use to hurt others. They said they knew. One little girl, about eight years old, said that it had happened to her and that she’s “learning to handle it.” These very kind and wonderful kids ended up calming my friend’s son and he later said that they had helped him “handle it” too. He said that having these nice kids stand by him, talk to him, and be his friends really helped him.
But this is frightening. I keep thinking if this sort of thing can go on right under the noses of a bunch of picnicking adults, what do kids do to each other when we’re not there? And what happens when, unlike what happened on this day, the group of bullies is bigger than the group of nice kids? What happens if the good kids, or at least the ones who are not part of the bullies’ gang, don’t come to the aid of the bullied kid?
I shudder to think.