It starts out as a joke, as so-called banter, but sometimes it’s more than that. Its effects can be far more impactful. ISB has dedicated the past week to an immersive topic : anti-bullying. People hide their pain, afraid of having to endure even more. For this reason this year's theme for ISB’s anti bullying week was “ Make a noise about bullying ". Just like in past years, the emphasis was on the trifling difference between banter and bullying. Harassment can often be disguised as friendly remarks or even backhanded compliments, which can be confusing among peers or even teachers, creating a sense of uncertainty on whether to take action or not. In most cases, even when the bullying is identified, students are often too scared to tell anyone because they fear social consequences such as ostracism, or even taking the victims place. Another factor coming into play in these situations is the bystander effect. What this means is that people are usually less likely to take action when seeing an injustice take place if they find themselves surrounded by other people. This happens due to our reflex ‘avoidant mentalities’ that tell us that when we are in a group of people, the responsibility to take action against bullying doesn’t fall directly on us and that someone else will do something. As a result of this shared way of thinking, the victims often end up not getting any help.
Someone who’s being targeted by an oppressor is not only plagued by the bully’s hatred, but also by the constant fear of being vulnerable. At times, it may feel like there is no escape, as bullying is simply a cycle of misplaced anger, to enforce self-esteem.
Whether it entails in person or on an online platform, or even in both, the point is to not sit tight and wait for it to pass. Talk to a trusted adult, a teacher, even to a friend. Protecting yourself without help could become an isolating fate, distancing yourself from people in order to repel bullying by not standing out. I, the author of this article, am well-aware that you have heard this information on repeat for a while now. But it’s not useless. Just like gossip flows through lessons, speaking up should be just as simple.
The ISBTV team knows and understands the importance of speaking up about these occurrences and as we are fortunate enough to not only have a platform, but an safe environment where we can speak up about such issues - so we decided to take action. Two of my teammates, Maria Argeseanu and Violeta Banica, as well as myself, took the lead in both primary and secondary assemblies by presenting this year’s theme and teaching students what to do when facing direct bullying or banter disguised as such.
From a personal standpoint, the moment I went up on stage I was worried that the students won't take the presentation seriously and will consider the topic of bullying trivial or humorous, as more often than not students don’t realise the gravity of their actions and the importance of the language they use with their collegues. Yet I was pleasantly surprised by the students’ perceptiveness, as well as their willingness to engage with us and our questions. This made me realise just how important and longed for a support system is in our school, especially for people our age. So, you should not keep quiet when witnessing bullying or harassment, if you see something you need to say something. Make a noise about bullying and help ameliorate the struggle of many without any shame or fear.