#teensexting | #sexting | Schooldays, the most miserable days of your life? – Slugger O’Toole | #parenting | #parenting | #kids

There was an interesting phenomenon during the pandemic of children who flourished being off school. Not just for the obvious reasons that they could stay home and watch Netflix all day, but they could escape bullying and the other pressures of school life.

For some kids, school is a daily ordeal of stress and misery. One friend’s daughter experienced bullying so severe that she developed a habit of pulling out her eyelashes – and this was only primary school. When she thought she was escaping to secondary school, one of the kids from her old school put up a TikTok video describing how much she did not like her. These days bullying has gone viral.

I went to primary school in the 80s, and looking back it almost sounds victorian. There was a kid in my class who had Asperbergers or a similar condition. Back then ‘isms’ did not exist and so he was just labelled ‘stupid’ and ‘bad’. When we were in P2 when he was ‘naughty’ the teacher used to put him in a big black bin. I can’t imagine this did much for his self esteem. While most teachers were generally good, there were always a few sadistic psychopaths to torment the unfortunate.

I generally had a good time at school. I was an easy-going kid with above-average grades. I was delighted with an A and two B’s for my A-Levels, whereas some kids are now under so much pressure, only 4 or 5 A stars will do. Middle-class parents have no idea how damaging all this pressure is on kids. Friends who are lecturers tell me around a quarter of students now have some kind of mental health issue – mainly anxiety.

Girls seem to be having it particularly bad, with rates of cutting at an all time high. Mobile phones and social networks have dramatically increased bullying with ever more creative ways to torture people. It can be very hard to stop. One of the most common ways of bullying is exclusion: the kid who no one will play with, the girl who does not get invited to the party etc. Then you having sexting and naked images that on one side will float around the internet forever, and on the other side can end up with a kid in the police station. Let’s not even get started on the dizzying array of drugs now available or even on prescription.

As a parent myself, I can see some of these behaviours happening in even 5 and 6 years olds. It is depressing to think that part of our human nature is we are complete pricks. We tell ourselves that kids need to get socialised and they need to learn how to live with each other. But sometimes I wonder is it really beneficial to be exposing your child to so many bullying future sociopaths?

Does school remove the individuality from some kids in a drive for conformity? Does ‘toughening them up’ remove the kindness and humanity from some kids?

I grew up in a working-class inner-city area of Belfast during the 1980s and 90s. The Troubles was a major factor in my life. I used to walk to school past the smoking remains of burning buses. I still hit the deck when I hear a loud bang. BUT given all this, I still believe I had a less stressful childhood than most modern kids, which is a bit weird.

Of course, it is not all bad; most kids have a good time at school. For many kids, school is a refuge from chaotic home lives, an oasis of stability. But we need to be conscious of the kids for whom school days are the most miserable time of their lives.

Share your school story in the comments.

Photo by Free-Photos is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

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