You can feel summer in New York City already – it hit 90 degrees over Memorial Day weekend. As my time in the classrooms of New York City’s independent schools comes to a close, I have been stocking up on my summer reading list – I can’t seem to shake this habit from my own schooling!
Jessie Klein’s book The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America was published this past March. Ms. Klein examines how the proliferation of school shooting from 1979 to 2009 were indicative of bullying culture. In my view, Ms. Klein’s book highlights our failure as a society, dismissing bullying as a part of growing up and a rite of passage that some young people have to endure.
Amy Weber posted an excellent, thought-provoking blog post here.
She discusses how society at large has created bullying and posits this answer to why bullying exists:
Hatred is nothing new. But a reality that we may need to start facing if we are going to solve this issue is that hatred is not innate. Plain and simply, it is learned. It manifests from a single or multiple source where a child is listening and watching. At home, a babysitter’s house, preschool, TV, online, our public figures and leaders, and out in the world. Our children are little sponges, with no ability to filter for themselves what they should take in or throw out. Everything they see and hear has an impact and is teaching them how to relate to others in the world and more importantly, how to relate to themselves. And the mirror they are reflecting back to us reveals an ugly truth that can longer be denied; this epidemic is the result of our society’s relentless intolerance and cruelty toward each other over a period of decades, coupled with technology that has desensitized humans from one another.
The Bully Chronicles is Ms. Weber’s current film project. Upon reading about the film, I’m excited to follow the it’s development. Ms. Weber’s film will help the viewer understand this horrid interpersonal dynamic from the victim’s eyes and the bully’s. We all want to understand why this happens and I applaud Ms. Weber’s attempt in answering that question.
Since starting this blog, I’ve been acutely aware of feeling hopeless at times when I consider the enormity of this problem: Will bullies ever stop? It feels like for every small change I’ve seen or heard about in one community, I read yet another story of a young person committing suicide after years of torment.
There are countless adults who live with the emotional scars of being bullied. Some adults live with the regret of being passive bystanders, refusing to do what was ethical for fear of becoming the next target. Lastly, there are adults who were bullies, and who are somewhat detached from how painful their behavior was.
I read about Lynda Frederick’s poem on Facebook over the weekend. Ms. Frederick wrote a heartfelt poem about her victimization as a high school student on the Facebook wall of her class’s 25th year reunion. Her act was brave and admirable. In turn, her former classmates reached out and apologized to her via telephone, email and any other method of communication available.
The four essays (all written by teenaged girls) are quite moving. I found myself humbled, particularly after reading this excerpt from Madison Jaronski’s essay:
“It’s in my job description as your mother to keep you safe,” is how one mother in a group of parents I’ve been working with explains why she does what she does. The question that plagues parents is: is my child safe when they aren’t with me?*
When a parent finds out that their child has been victimized by bullying, a myriad of emotions and questions arise:
There have been two stories in the news recently: one parent wiring his son to catch his teachers bullying him and another providing her son a stun gun to protect himself from bullies. Both sets of parents took what some would call extreme measures to protect their children. But how extreme are those measures?
Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA developmental psychologist has published new study that sheds a different light on the psychology of bullying here. What I found most enlightening was that, contrary to popular belief that bullies are young people who have low self-esteem and thus bully to compensate, Ms. Juvonen’s study notes that bullies,”…have almost ridiculously high levels of self-esteem… what’s more, they are viewed by their fellow students and even by teachers not as pariahs but as popular — in fact, as some of the coolest kids at school.”
If there is one hot button topic among parents and students it is cyberbullying – what is it exactly, how to stop it (or is it even stoppable!), and why do young people do it. STOP Cyberbullying is a great online resource for anyone who is concerned about this topic. STOP Cyberbullying states:
“Cyberbullying” is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.
When I speak to young people, I like calling it digital drama or internet drama – I’ve been told that only, “old people,” call cyberbullying, cyberbullying! In any case, while bullying in any form is unacceptable, intervening when cyberbullying occurs is difficult since the bullies, bystanders and victims often are shielded from each other through the distance of modern technology. Often bullies may become more vicious with their attacks since there is a lack of face-to-face interaction. In the past, victims could get respite from bullies when they left school to the safety of their homes. Now, bullying continues through Facebook wall posts, YouTube videos, text messages and other means of connecting via social networking sites all day long.