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Thursday 21 August 2014

Yes, kids can be cruel, but that doesn't make childhood bullying acceptable

Elayna Keller

Published 02/04/2014 | 02:30

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Elayna keller of Our Ladys College Drogheda who was named overall winner of the NNI Press Pass Awards at the National Convention Centre, Dublin
Elayna keller of Our Ladys College Drogheda who was named overall winner of the NNI Press Pass Awards at the National Convention Centre, Dublin
Bullying is not acceptable, even if kids can be cruel. Photo: Getty Images.
Bullying is not acceptable, even if kids can be cruel. Photo: Getty Images.

People say that kids don't know any better. People say that kids say things they don't mean to say and that if you're telling on them, you're basically telling tales or being a rat, or whatever you may call it.

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So what if they're nine years old? They're not stupid. They know exactly what they're doing or at least have some awareness and, to this day, the things that some kids say really hurt. Statistically, 40pc of nine-year-olds were victims of bullying in the last year, according to the Irish Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children.

When things are said to you, no matter what time of day it is, no matter how old you are, no matter where you are, no matter how long ago it was, no matter how drunk someone is, no matter if you know the person or not – it hurts. And it sticks. And it's imprinted there forever.

There was once a boy who ran home crying because another boy threatened to beat him up at school the next day. I remember him. He bawled his eyes out as soon as he was out of sight, and sprinted, feet pounding against the pavement, all the way home. I've talked to him recently. He still remembers. He still can't forget. He was never beaten up by the boy, but the remembrance of the fear was a punch to the chest in itself.

People say that kids can be cruel. That's right, they can be ... but I don't think that people should dare to say such a thing so bluntly and easily.

It's disgraceful to think that because kids are kids, they'll say these things and then they move on. It's not like that. What makes childhood bullying any different to secondary school bullying? Or bullying in a work environment? What makes it less painful, the fact that it happened a long time ago? The fact that it's over and done with? The fact that you're not in contact with those people any more?

I don't think it's very fair to categorise childhood bullying as minor, like some people do. Do you?

I kept journals as a child. I wrote as often as I could, I drew pictures, I wrote about my day. Now that I look back in them, as time went on, I saw the entries get shorter and the pictures become more graphic. I was begging for help.

"Kids can be cruel" as they say. They can. So don't take it so lightly. Don't say: "It wasn't even that bad" or "It happened ages ago, she's/he's just being ridiculous now". If you notice constant cruelty or see a primary school student upset, notify someone about it. Talk to the student. Even if they don't accept that kind of help, at least you tried to make that person happy again. I know I would've loved that.

Don't neglect a child because of a stupid old saying, because God only knows what childhood bullying might do to someone in the future.

Elayna Keller, a transition-year student at Our Lady's College, Drogheda, Co Louth won the National Newspapers of Ireland Press Pass Competition, sponsored by the Irish League of Credit Unions, for this journalistic work. Her entry is a first-hand account of being a target of bullies. This is an edited extract.

Irish Independent

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