Sarah Stultz: Preventing bullying starts with ourselves

Published 10:03 pm Monday, August 27, 2018

Nose for News, By Sarah Stultz

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.

At the Albert Lea Tribune for 12 years next month, I have worked on or read a fair share of stories over the years in our newspaper about the affects of bullying.

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Most of those stories have been about bullying in schools and what the school districts in our area are doing to combat it.

What we don’t hear as often, however, is about the affects of adult bullying. In reality, this problem is just as prevalent, but it is often not as widely discussed.

This issue came to the forefront for me over the weekend when I heard about a Facebook post from KAAL TV anchor Rachel Wick, who recently switched from anchoring in the morning to anchoring in the evening.

Wick wrote about receiving a hurtful message from a viewer who made negative comments about her hair and eyelashes. She said the station gets these kinds of emails weekly, and she has been told over and over not to worry about these people. But Wick stood up to this viewer — and others — who think they can hide behind their keyboards and say whatever they want without any consequence.

“Words hurt,” she wrote. “We’re not made of stone. We are just trying to live each day on this earth to its fullest.”

That was Thursday, and that post has since received 979 comments and 302 shares. The next morning she posted a live video from her home talking about the subject even more, which has been viewed 12,000 times.

According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, nearly three-quarters of American adults have witnessed online harassment, while 40 percent are the victims of cyberbullying.

Bullying with adults doesn’t only happen online. According to Operation Respect, a nonprofit advocacy organization, 27 percent of Americans have suffered abusive conduct at work, and 21 percent have personally witnessed it happening to someone else.

When did it ever become acceptable to put someone else down, and why is this happening?

According to an Oct. 21, 2015, article in The New Yorker, “The effects of adult bullying can be just as severe, if not more so, than those of childhood bullying. While students can go to their teachers if they’re being bullied, if you report your boss, you could be out of a job. And adult victims of cyberbullying tend to suffer higher levels of mental strain and lower job satisfaction than those subjected to more traditional forms of bullying. An undermining colleague can be put out of mind at the end of the day. But someone who persecutes you over email, social networks or anonymous comments is far more difficult to avoid and dismiss.”

The writer goes on to say that the internet has made bullying both harder to escape and harder to identify. It has made a world where comments can be made virtually without any consequences.

The writer suggests the first step to preventing bullying among adults is introspection.

We should each take a moment and look at our own actions both in our daily interactions with others and on social media.

As the Golden Rule suggests, are we treating others as we would like to be treated?

If we want our children to learn positive relationship-building skills such as respect, we must start with ourselves.

What do our children see us doing? How do our children see us talking to others, both in person and online?

Same as with other habits, our children learn many habits in the home.

Teach them that bullying is not acceptable — ever.