Bullying. Though many people experience it, some individuals are more resilient than others, largely due to the supports they have available to them. However, when people do not have the proper supports in place, it can greatly hinder them from reaching their fullest potential.
But what happens when bulling moves beyond face to to face interaction? Today's teens are experiencing something that no teen before them had to endure. Through the ever growing presence of social media, bullying has become a completely consuming and immersive experience for youth because they are unable to escape from negativity constantly hurled towards them. Day and night, regardless of where they are or who they are with, insults and abuse can be slung directly to the device in their hand, with no friend or mentor to help filter the painful attacks.
In Jr. High, friends are the first line of support for many teens. I remember during a game of Uno with some students at The Youth Unlimited Town Centre Drop-in, one of the participants (we'll call her Jane) broke down in tears and told me how she was being bullied at school and doesn’t have many friends. It was tough to see how much emotional pain she was in. However, through our discussion I let her know that the leaders at Youth Unlimited are on her side and that if she has even one friend that she can talk to that has her back, it would go a long way. Even if that friend was one of us.
Jane has been coming to the Drop-in for the past few months as a regular. She has made some great connections with the leaders and her peers since our discussion about support and someone you trust to talk to. Over the past few weeks, Jane has become more confident in herself and being open to how school is coming along with her home life. Every week, either myself or another staff checks in on her asking how things are going at school and at home. She has been able to find support through myself. She is looking forward to being able to give back to the community when she is old enough to volunteer through her church and summer camp. Though Jane’s story has just begun she has already has grown significantly in her self-esteem.
Though I have not been with Youth Unlimited a long time, I can already begin to see the impact that having a positive role model and 'someone to talk to' has on our youth.