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11.04.2014 Opinion

Obiaa Nnyε Obiaa

By Gifty Mwin-yele Narvee
Obiaa Nnyε Obiaa
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It is not an uncommon sight to see children, mostly below the age of 10 years bathing out in the open when you get to certain rural areas in Ghana. The urban regions too have their own share of this, mostly in their slums. To a foreign eye, it would look weird but to a local it is part of the joys of being a child. The primary word here is innocence.

These children are in their own world. A world where they know food would always be waiting for them at home, where every one looks like a good person, where a toffee is the world's greatest invention, where their parents are superheroes and bathing in the open is just an ordinary yet fun activity.

A few years later, these children hit puberty and then all of a sudden the once so ordinary activity is the most embarrassing thing that could ever happen to them. This is quite normal because they start to realize who they really are; young men and women with “special areas” on their bodies that need shielding from the public. The idea of exposing their bodies in the open is too humiliating a thought for them and they do their best to cover up. Puberty is a very confusing time for most children.

Apart from the obvious physical changes, they begin to change emotionally and mentally. Young men tend to check their usually boisterous behaviours and shabby dressing to make sure they look appealing to the opposite sex and the young ladies, well, start spending endless hours in the bathroom and in front of their dressing mirrors, trying to look appealing too.

This is the period young men and women start comparing themselves to each other, trying to see who is more beautiful and especially who is more popular. These popular people become leaders of their peers not by visible voting but by some mental recognition. Respect is accorded these individuals and in most cases, a sense fear of them. These “leaders” have a tremendous hold over their followers and they are seen as always right.

This is where negative peer pressure is at its worst and best. This is the stage where most parents advice their children not to move with certain crowds for fear of their children learning their “uncouth” behaviours. Being in the “in crowd” though makes these young people feel they fit and are accepted. This is a very crucial time for young adults as it feels (though it isn't) as if it is a life and death situation. To be a part of the in crowd is such a social achievement that everyone strives to be a part. This is the stage where bullying sets in too.

Bullying and negative peer pressure are both mental problems. This is a big problem in our society today especially where teens are concerned. In order to impress, and be a part of the in crowd, teens succumb to all kinds of mental pressure. To be bullied or negative peer pressured, you have to allow yourself. This kind of problem is highest in our schools.

Teens sometimes seem to forget that they are their own individuals; that they came on their own and will go back on their own. The constant need to be accepted transcends any other thing. Mind you, there are the smart ones who know why they are in school and there are the well, not so smart ones, who feel that school is for “chilling”. These smart ones are mostly those who decided to listen to all the pieces of advice given them before school and the not the so smart ones either did not have the opportunity to get these advices or decided to totally neglect them.

Our not so smart friends at the end become those giving the negative peer pressure or those who allow themselves to be pressured. Do not get me wrong, at one point or the other, all teens have succumbed to negative peer pressure or one bullying or the other, yet there are those who constantly fall into this trap. These teens fall into trouble regularly by breaking school rules and are even given certain degrading nicknames to improve their popularity.

The worst of them all are the weak willed ones; those who are bullied not because they like to be bullied but because they cannot speak up for themselves. This is either because of fear of being ostracized from their group and being seen as “uncool” or just because they are too scared to go against their “leaders”. This leads them to acquire a low sense of worth or esteem for themselves. This can result in mental depression and cause them to hate themselves so much that they would not mind hurting themselves or even killing themselves. Some of these teens start setting standards for coolness; being beauty, a wealthy background, access to certain items and even type of clothing.

They see their 'leaders' as the standards and judge themselves accordingly. They see themselves as ugly and even poor when in actual fact, they are very far away from the truth. These bullies only hype the little they have to create a statement that they are the “coolest” and their followers believe them whole heartedly.

This problem does not only exist during our teen years. Unfortunately, young people who get so affected by these things continue to feel this way even during their early adulthood and sometimes they never come out of it. They graduate from petty theft, jumping fences and smuggling food out of their canteens to joining gangs and cults and even indulging in prostitution. It is even more pathetic when ladies are involved. These kinds of ladies easily fall prey to manipulative men who only use them for their pleasure.

The funny thing about this is most of those who join these groups and indulge in these negative acts are all from well to do families where they lack nothing, thus the excuse of financial difficulty does not apply to them. It all comes out of a longing to belong, to fit into society and create a false sense of confidence for themselves and also to be respected and regarded as important because they in reality they do not feel they are.

On an article I found online at the American Psychological Association site entitled “Being Bullied Throughout Childhood and Teens May Lead to More Arrests, Convictions, Prison Time” written on the 1st of August 2013, the extract below was posted “HONOLULU — People who were repeatedly bullied throughout childhood and adolescence were significantly more likely to go to prison than individuals who did not suffer repeated bullying, according to a new analysis presented at the American Psychological Association's 121st Annual Convention.

Almost 14 percent of those who reported being bullied repeatedly from childhood through their teens ended up in prison as adults, compared to 6 percent of non-victims, 9 percent of childhood-only victims and 7 percent of teen-only victims, the study found. When comparing rates of convictions, more than 20 percent of those who endured chronic bullying were convicted of crimes, compared to 11 percent of non-victims, 16 percent of childhood victims, and 13 percent of teen victims.”

The problem of peer pressure and bullying is a global problem. It does not only exist in Ghana but in other countries too and it is more severe over there. It seems technological advancement has even led to the rise of cyber bullying.

On another article “What effect does bullying have on children?” compiled by the following groups Peer Abuse Learning Services, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids (Bullying Prevention is Crime Prevention), and "What Parents Should Know About Bullying" (Prevent Child Abuse America, 2002) on the website “Massachusetts's citizens for children”, there's another startling statistic and the extract below shows it;

• When asked about the major issues affecting youth today, more 8-15 year olds picked bullying than those who picked drugs, alcohol, racism, AIDS or peer pressure to have sex.

• Victims of bullying are 5 times more likely to be depressed than their non-victimized peers.

• Bullied boys are 4 times more likely to be suicidal and bullied girls are 8 times more likely to be suicidal than those who have not been affected by bullying.

The problem has become so serious that bullying has been increasingly considered as a public health issue plaguing our entire society. About 60% of the boys in 6-9th grade that are classified as bullies are later convicted of at least one crime by the time they are 24 and 40% had three or more convictions. It is imperative that we address bullying with school-age children in an effort to keep our schools and streets safer.”

If we will be honest to ourselves, almost everyone will admit to have been bullied or peer pressured into doing something he or she did not want to do once or twice. If you turned out ok, then we thank God. If you did not, then please seek help. We can also work on making sure this problem is eradicated from our society and the main thing we can do is to talk.

Yes, talk! Talk to our children about it and also listen to them. It is also important to make children how much they are worth as human beings and the fact that they are all beautiful. This can nip this canker in the bud before it blows out of proportion and leaves parents with damaged children. Take time today and talk to your child. Advice him or her and listen to him too, make them feel loved and wanted and truly confident of themselves. Make your child realize that they are important just as everyone is and that, nobody should and can take that away from them. After all, “Obiaa nnyε Obiaa”.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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