It may be last year’s news, but Lorne Jaffe knows that the lessons from the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito Bullying Scandal are timeless.
What kids & parents should take away from the Miami Dolphins bullying situation:
1) When a 310 lb professional football player can be bullied, anyone can. Kids and parents definitely need to know this. It doesn’t matter what you look like, how tall you are, how heavy you are, whether you’re male or female, how old you are; anyone can be a victim of bullying which has reached an epidemic in schools across the nation. As NY Jet, Bart Scott, said on ESPN Radio: “Anybody can be bullied, it’s not about size.”
2) Don’t be afraid to step forward. Children are often way too scared to say anything to anyone about being bullied. I was that way as a child and in fact, it’s a trait that’s followed me into adulthood. Bullied kids feel like they’re alone. They feel no one will believe them should they speak up. They feel no one will do anything about it and that the taunts and punches and threats will just get worse. There’s a lack of trust in the system – teachers, principals, guidance counselors, peers, parents. Documentaries such as Bully highlight this distrust, fear and, as far as the system goes, failure to help. I’ve experienced it myself. In 6th grade I was being harassed by the kid who sat next to me in the classroom. Following months of whispered teasing and under-the-table kicks, I went to my teacher (a bully herself) to complain and asked to change seats. She didn’t believe me and worse, accused me of making it up. If children are to learn to trust and feel safe, they need the system to come through. Jonathan Martin stepped forward despite knowing that the culture of professional football and the locker room dictates never to call out a teammate, especially in the press. He decided he’d had enough and placed his trust in the Dolphins organization and the NFL to do something about the situation. Bullied children should look at Martin and do the same. Step forward. I know that should Sienna ever be bullied, I’d want her to tell me, to trust that I’ll not just believe her, but I’ll take action.
3) Tied into the fear of stepping forward is this: The potential repercussions from speaking up are worth it. Some NFL players, including Antrel Rolle of the NY Giants, have accused Martin of not being man enough to stand up for himself. According to Rolle, “Was Richie Incognito wrong? Absolutely, but I think the other guy is just as much to blame as Richie, because he allowed it to happen. At this level, you’re a man. You’re not a little boy. You’re not a freshman in college. You’re a man.” Sorry, Antrel, but this is an outdated and way too common belief that actually perpetuates bullying. I don’t care what level you’re at – grade school, high school, a 30-yr-old at work – not everyone has it in them to resort to violence to stop a bully, nor should they have to. Too many parents, especially fathers, of boys share this thought and actually bully their kids into fighting. How is this good? Many told me I was more of a man when I chose not to challenge a guy who bullied me at Sienna’s Halloween party. This holds true for Martin and for any kid who follows the same route. Sure there will be idiots like Rolle, but not resorting to violence is the way to go. Parents need to teach this to their children. Perhaps doing so will help prevent kids from turning to guns and thus lower the probability of future Columbines. As NY Jet, Bart Scott said on ESPN Radio, “Thank God he (Martin) didn’t bring a gun to work and start shooting.”
4) There might actually be positives when it comes to bullying and social media. Cyberbullying, like regular bullying, is out of control. Just this past September, Rebecca Ann Sedwick jumped to her death due to insane social media harassment from a gaggle of girls. Sedwick was 12 years old. One of the final messages she received was: ”You aren’t dead yet…Go jump off of a building.” Such bullying via sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., happens all the time. In fact, it happened to Jonathan Martin, but Martin turned it around on his bully. He saved Incognito’s hateful texts and emails and used them as proof which got Incognito suspended and, perhaps, banned from the NFL.
Children should look to Martin as an example, as should parents who need to teach their kids about the dangers of social media and that should they be harassed, they must save everything to use as proof. This is actual evidence of bullying instead of the my word vs. his/her word of the past as I referred to above during my 6th grade bullying story. Authority figures also need to learn not dismiss such evidence and instead treat it as extremely serious. We might just save a child’s life.
I know we’ll never put an end to bullying, but there’s no reason why we can’t curtail it and learn from publicized incidents. The Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin incident is a perfect way for authority figures to teach children that bullying can happen to anyone; that one need not be afraid to step forward; that there’s no need to turn to violence; that the repercussions of stepping forward clearly outweigh not saying anything; and that social media can be used against a cyberbully. Now we just need to learn and teach.
We need to protect out children. It’s the first rule of being a parent. Thank you Jonathan Martin for setting such a wonderful example.
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