School Bullying - "Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones But..."
"Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones But..."
Danielle Mele, Clinical Coordinator, Assessment Program, Dominion Education Center
A few decades ago many people believed that bullying was a relatively harmless and even helpful experience. The notion that bullying would help kids to toughen up and learn to defend themselves is one that is still prevalent in the United States today. However, research and numerous tragedies have shown that bullying has devastating, often irreversible consequences.
Bullying is different than other types of aggression because it occurs repeatedly over time and an imbalance of power is present. The imbalance of power can be physical or social. For example, a student who bullies another may be physically stronger or they may be more socially powerful (i.e. more popular) than their victim. This imbalance makes it nearly impossible for the victim to protect him or herself from the bully’s often relentless assaults. Asking a student to defend him or herself or to “work things out” with a bully is the same as asking a child to defend him or herself or to “work things out” with an abusive parent.
The reality is that the bully has more power than the victim, so the victim is unable to successfully stave off the bully’s attacks. The classic tale of the victim triumphing over the bully in films such as “A Christmas Stor” and “Revenge of the Nerds” is relatively inaccurate. In general, when victims attempt to stand up to bullies, they are unsuccessful and their failed attempt(s) often intensifies rather than diminishes the bullying. As always, there are exceptions, but suggesting that a student attack back or solve the problem independently is far riskier than other solutions.
Students who bully use a variety of physical and social tactics to hurt their victims. Bullying behavior includes hitting, kicking, pushing, name calling, rumor spreading, impersonating someone online, exclusion, and sending mean text messages or pictures of people to others. Cyberbullying which involves text messages, Instant Messenger, e-mail, chat rooms (bash board), websites such as Facebook, and online voting polls is becoming very common. In one study, 40% of students reported that they had been bullied online.
Celebrities have started to speak out against bullying as the result of recent, tragic events. One of the most notable faces associated with this movement is Justin Bieber. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Justin spoke about his experiences with bullying. Justin also recorded a PSA encouraging kids who witness bullying to intervene.
Empowering bystanders to help students who are bullied is one of the best ways to stop the cycle of victimization. When no one helps victims, bullies believe that everyone supports what they are doing even though that is not the case. Those who witness bullying can help by getting an adult or by comforting the victim after the bully leaves. Students should never put themselves in harm’s way to intervene!
Numerous recent tragedies have put bullying in the limelight, and it seems that public opinion about bullying is starting to change. School bullying is something that hurts all students, even those who only witness others being bullied. Hopefully the resolve to effectively prevent and intervene in bullying situations will not fade as the media spotlight inevitably dims.
Demi Lovato, and Colin Ferrell are other celebrities who have spoken out about the negative consequences of bullying.
Speaking out against School Bullying: fox43tv.com
some great books on bullying.