If you went to school in Africa (Nigerian boarding schools to be precise) you undoubtedly have a completely different perception to what gets passed off as bullying in the West. The concept of cyber-bull where I’m from is more or less an oxymoron (ain’t no body got time for that!). From as early as nine or ten years old most kids (myself included) experience physical bullying in the form of belting and a range of corporal punishments I cannot begin to explain. The school systems are structured to permit this kind of treatment with an unspoken rule that arranges a power structure within students based on what year you are in. Teachers of course are allowed to smack you. While I will not promote or defend bullying in this way, I would point out that this ‘suck it up’ philosophy encourages a certain type of character building unseen in the West as far as bullying is concerned. I have been reading through comments about the victim of cyber bullying on Ask.fm that ended up hanging herself and it has really got me thinking. Of course this is not the first time such a case has arisen and if steps are not taken it wouldn’t be the last either.
Most comments seem to call for better monitoring of these sites, better parental monitoring of children’s internet activity, or blame the victims for not being mature enough to handle the situation. I think it is worth considering how children are socialized these days to figure out if society is not giving kids the tools essential to build strong characters. Could it be possible that in today’s society children are over-protected and under-monitored? I will give an example. In Nigeria it is very common for parents to physically hit their kids to deter them from repeating an offense. Because this happens to everyone there is no stigma attached to it. No Nigerian grows up feeling ‘abused’ because their parents hit them with a belt or shoe on a few occasions. In the West a parent hitting the child provides this child with a sob story for the rest of their life. I actually remember being teased with the term ‘ajebor’ (posh) in school because I said my parents never hit me. In fact I considered making up that they did just to feel normal!
I do not have kids therefore I feel rather unqualified to suggest a solution, but it is obvious that much needs to be done in regards to character building to reduce the need for social acceptance among the young. Perhaps some scheme rolled out to lecture kids on handling bullying after teaching them how to put condoms over cucumbers?