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Ostracism: The Unseen Bully

March 01, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 184

The need to belong is one of the most basic of all human elements and failure to belong leads to long term and lasting emotional problems, some of which are tragic!

In ancient times, the Greeks would exile someone, usually a politician, by voting on broken pieces of pottery call an "ostrakon", and hence the word "ostracism". In today's society we may not be as blatant as the ancient Greeks, but we do continue their practice.

First, we need to agree that the conscious decision to exclude someone from the group is bullying, plain and simple. While in certain situations it is impossible for everyone to be a member of a group, say in team events where the number of players is limited, in most cases, that is the exception rather than the rule. Excluding someone from a group for no other reason than they are different or that the "group/clique leader" doesn't like that person is nothing more than bullying through the process of ostracism.

Further, with the rise in usage of social media among our young the ability to create "real friends" is becoming more difficult. Now it is just a matter of "sending a friend request" to an unknown person in the hope of gaining a friend. Unfortunately, these social media relationships do not develop life skills and in some cases can lead to lower self esteem and depression. When a child seeks to "friend" his/her classmates on a social network and is purposely ignored, that is a form of ostracism. CBS recently reported that a new symptom of depression was being noticed in young people...that of not being "friended" on Facebook. Exclusion from the group, even in the virtual world, occurs every day and children need to know how to adapt to it. If they don't, the results can be long lasting and extremely harmful, to them and others.

"Ostracism can cause depression, low self-esteem, and insecurity. It can cause a child to be extremely self-critical, lose their self-respect and identity which can cause major deficits in their ability to think critically and problem-solve or achieve conflict resolution. They also develop issues with social interactions, criticisms and aggression with others. In most cases of shootings on campuses the "shooter" was considered isolated and depressed."

How many times do we see someone being ostracized because they look a little different or because they come from "the wrong social background"? Perhaps they dress or act differently? Increasingly LGBT teens are suffering from low self esteem and depression because they are being ostracized from their fellow classmates. This form of bullying can often lead to suicide. So what can be done about it? The answer is not simple.

Unfortunately, ostracism is very difficult to recognize or even to report as a form of bullying. That is because it is not physical. Secondly, even if it is recognized, it is almost impossible to force someone to be accepted by a group (that may lead to further bullying). What can be done, however, is to bring this form of bullying into the light to show students, staff, and parents how ostracism occurs and then to recognize some of the warning signs. One of the easiest signs to recognize is the unwillingness of a child to partake in school events or their sudden loss of friends. These are signs that something has happened in the child's life and we as adults need to react. It is not just a phase that a child is going through, it can be life altering!

There are numerous sites which can address ostracism, but for all the studies and examples given, nothing is better than what you see with your own eyes. If you are an educator it is easy to spot the child who sits alone or who is always excluded from group activities. As a parent, you should know your child best and identify changes in their eating behavior, lack of energy, or unwillingness to associate with former friends. In short, this unseen bully can be handled, but only when we learn to recognize it and then defeat it.

To paraphrase, "No man is an island when he/she has friends!"

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Source: EzineArticles
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