Close your eyes. Think of bullying.
What do you see?
My guess is you saw a playground tussle, a student being pushed into a locker, a boy pulling on a young girls pigtails.
If you’re a little younger, you may have imagined a cell phone lighting up with cruel text messages, or binging with comments on your latest social media post.
In short, you probably imagined bullying happening to a kid. Perhaps a teen. Someone not yet able to vote but old enough to know right from wrong.
It makes sense that you would have seen it that way.
Bullying is a key story line is nearly every teen TV show and young adult novel. It’s the main messaging in nearly every anti-bullying campaign — heck, the government of Canada has a web page devoted to helping parents understand and prevent bullying in youth.
It’s an unfortunate way that youth assert dominance over each other in situations where there is very little they can do to assert power in the rest of their lives.
As adults, we can help youth with their issues around bullying, and we should.
With the benefit of experience — sometimes experience of being bullied ourselves — we can help the next generation express themselves in more positive ways, or assist them in walking away from their own bullies.
But we should also remember that bullying doesn’t stop when we leave our high school walls.
Adults can be bullies too.
Bullying can happen in our workplaces. It can happen to people in their personal relationships, and it can happen between strangers online.
Bullying might be harder to see as an adult.
Online, after all, we’ve grown to expect that strangers will judge our comments,say hurtful things about our social media posts and spam our DMs with hate.
In our jobs, we might be resigned to tolerating demeaning behaviour from our bosses because we need to pay rent.
In our personal lives, we may brush off the repeated negative remarks of an old friend or pretend that physical abuse from a romantic partner is less than it seems.
This is not okay.
Bullying is hurtful and habitual. It is unacceptable whether the person being bullied is seven, 17 or 77.
If you suspect that you are being bullied, there are ways you can deal with it.
In work places, you can contact your HR department, or a coworker you trust. Online, you can block those who are habitually harassing you, and report them to the social media platform.
If you are in an abusive relationship, there are supports that can help you get out of it. (Men can be victims in abusive relationships too, and there is support for you as well.)
And if you’re being bullied by a friend, well, sometimes you just have to handle your bullies the old fashioned way — with support from your loved ones.
(Note: the old fashioned way does not mean with fists on a playground, but rather through an in-person discussion.)
So this year, on Feb. 24 when students across the province don pink to oppose bullying, let’s not let our youth do all the work.
Before we can help youth with their own struggles around bullying, we need to deal with our own.
Let’s dig into our closets and pull on our own pink shirts.
Let’s remember that bullying doesn’t end when we turn 19, and that every person should be able to live their life free from bullying.