Archives for July, 2012
Hello All! "Beating the Bully" will be taking a summer vacation and will be back blogging on August 13th! Until then I'll have some of the most-read posts up for your enjoyment. Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA developmental psychologist, has published a new study that sheds a different light on the psychology of bullying here. What I found most enlightening was that contrary to the 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." WHAT!
There seems to be an app for everything these days. CNN's blog on Education recently posted about some ingenious students at Metropolitan Academy in New Haven, CT, who are creating an iPhone app that lets students anonymously report bullying to school administrators. The app, Back Off Bully, allows bystanders to let School Administrators know who the bully/bullies were, where the incident took place and who was victimized. Too often, I hear young people worry that if they stand up to a bully, they will become the next victim. Yet bystanders of bullying are the most powerful people in the dynamic!
I was doing my daily internet research and came across this blog post by Cat Koehler, a mother who deconstructs the newfound attention towards bullying. Ms. Koehler astutely notes that never before have we put so much attention towards bullying. She goes on to suggest that due to this attention, we have become hyper-vigilant, labeling normative interpersonal conflict between children as bullying. Ms. Koehler shares an incident involving her 9-year-old daughter and a boy picking on her. Candidly, she says, "At first I wanted to hug her and tell her it would all be okay, but then I got a little angry. Why was she sitting here acting like a victim? Had we not taught her how to stand up for herself?"
Last week I highlighted that bullying can continue well into adulthood. Whether in the bathroom of a local middle school or in the board room, bullying continues to permeate our social lives, making people feel like victims, helpless bystanders and powerful oppressors. As a society, we all agree this is morally wrong, yet one can find instances of bullying every day. Recently, Forbes shared author Christopher Boehm, PhD's thoughts on bullying as an evolutionary phenomenon gone askew. Dr. Boehm states that bullying behavior is found many species and is adaptive, "because you get better food or mating opportunities… In primates, studies have shown that the top bullies have more offspring and therefore their genes proliferate." Our moral backbone develops in spite of the existence of this primal drive.
Unfortunately for many young people, managing bullying is a daily occurrence - learning how to avoid it, stand up to it, or at worst tolerate it until they can escape. I remember a particularly difficult time in middle school when it felt as if I had to be a "mean girl" or suffer at the hands of the alpha pack. Standing on the sidelines was just as painful as being picked on. Like Jenna in 13 Going on 30, I would fantasize of the day as an adult when none of it mattered. I'd be an adult living in the big city, successful, happy...as Jenna would say "30, flirty, and thriving." I'm fortunate enough to feel 30ish, flirty and thriving! Although some things don't change despite our age - bullying still exists in the adult world. The Workplace Bullying Institute reports that in 2010 about 35 percent of employees in the U.S. had been or are currently being bullied.
We all know bullying is unhealthy for one's emotional well-being, but a new study from Sweden shares its findings on how bullying from adolescence can affect one's physical health into middle age. Researchers have discovered that teenagers who are ostracized at school are more likely to be at risk of developing heart disease and diabetes when they enter middle age. They are more likely to be obese, have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as being at greater risk of developing diabetes by their early 40s. Furthermore, the study found that girls were much more susceptible to the health risks associated with bullying.