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Can We Really Stop Bullying?

Posted by on Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:17 AM
  • 46 Replies

Can We Really Stop Bullying?

Emily Yoffe interviews Emily Bazelon about her new book, Sticks and Stones.


Little girl crying.

What do you do if your kid is a bully?

Photo by Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy is Slate senior editor Emily Bazelon's in-depth look at bullying and a blueprint for how to reduce it. She tells compelling stories from the perspective of both the bullied and the bullies, explores the new world of online bullying, looks deep into the academic literature, and provides answers to the problem. She discussed it all with Slate's “Dear Prudence” columnist, Emily Yoffe.

Emily Yoffe: What was the most surprising thing your reporting turned up?

Emily Bazelon: One piece of research in particular helped me understand why kids bully—how that can be a rational, if unfortunate, choice. Robert Faris at U.C. Davis mapped social networks in a few different high schools, and he showed that kids behaving aggressively—not physically, but socially—use gossip, exclusion, and attacks on other kids’ reputations to help themselves move up the social ladder. It turned out that for most kids, it didn’t work, in terms of increasing status, to attack someone much weaker. But if you picked on someone near you in the social hierarchy who was a possible rival, that often had a social benefit. It is sort of depressing but important to understand, I think. People ask: Why do kids act this way? But kids are doing what anyone would do: maximizing their social influence. So then the question is: How do we upend this?

Yoffe: Is it even realistic to think you can upend it? Aren’t you talking about a pervasive part of human nature?

Bazelon: Aggression is endemic to human nature, and we wouldn’t want to stamp it out. Kids are not always going to be nice to one another. But bullying is a certain kind of harmful aggression. The agreed-upon definition is that it’s verbal or physical aggression that is repeated over time and involves a power differential. It’s one kid lording it over another, and because it persists, the victim can find it particularly devastating. We can help kids realize this kind of aggression is not the norm, and in the end, it’s not the best way to advance socially, either.

One school I write about did a survey, and the results showed that 90 percent of students there did not exclude other kids at the lunch table. So they put this information on posters around the school, and the incidence of exclusion dropped even further. There’s an analogy here to the campaign against drunk driving. When I was in high school, I felt it was a tiny bit cool to drink and drive. There wasn’t a strong message about how dangerous and wrong it was. But parents, schools, and the media have succeeded in impressing that on kids, and now they are less likely to do it—and the death rate from drunk driving among young people has gone down significantly. There are social problems that seem intractable, but when we put energy into pushing back, we are able to change things.

Yoffe: You write about your own experience being bullied in middle school, when you say your friends “fired” you. Did your parents handle the situation correctly when they told you to ignore the mean girls and make new friends? Or do you now realize there was something else they should have done?

Bazelon: My parents were pretty good. They were clued into what was going on, they didn’t minimize or say I was being silly to be so upset. They gave good advice to make new friends. The notion that you can walk away from a toxic social situation, take yourself out of it, and find a new social group is right, even if it’s hard to do. What my parents didn’t do was ask the school for help. At that time, in the 1980s, I don’t think that would have occurred to many parents. And I probably would have said no if they had wanted to! So in my case, and more tellingly in the case of another girl in my class I write about, who really was bullied, there was no suggestion that this was the school’s affair. If this were happening to my kid, I would try to find someone at school to help. But even now the research shows most kids don’t tell adults at school, and sadly those that do report that their situations don’t necessarily improve. That has to change so that the kids who go for help really get it.

Yoffe: Is there a danger in adults getting too involved in this? Have you found that adults can overreact and then make the kids think of themselves as damaged victims?

Bazelon: Yes, and that’s why I think it’s important to use the bullying label sparingly. Lots of psychological literature shows that seeing oneself only as a victim doesn’t help people advance in life. In a well-intentioned effort to help kids treat one another better, we do have to be careful not to overpolice or overprotect them. They have to make mistakes and experience adversity, and we can’t fix everything along the way. In some upper- and middle-class communities, we can veer too far in that direction. But some real mistreatment does get swept under the rug, so I worry about the opposite problem at the same time.

To read the rest:

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/02/sticks_and_stones_emily_yoffe_interviews_emily_bazelon_about_her_new_book.html

by on Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:17 AM
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Replies (1-10):
futureshock
by Ruby Member on Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:17 AM

bump

furbabymum
by Gold Member on Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:20 AM
1 mom liked this

 I'm sorry but I don't see bullying as being something we can stop, ever. It's too socially ingrained.

Mommy_of_Riley
by Jes on Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:20 AM
2 moms liked this
Interesting read.

Honestly I do not think bullying will ever end. It's human nature to "prey" on the weak... Sad but true.
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lizzielouaf
by Gold Member on Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:22 AM
2 moms liked this

While I agree that bullying will probably never stop I don't think we should stop trying either.

Quoting furbabymum:

 I'm sorry but I don't see bullying as being something we can stop, ever. It's too socially ingrained.



parentalrights1
by on Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:23 AM
4 moms liked this
The adults do it and kids learn from their parents.

They think on this site that since their kids aren't reading their bullying that they aren't learning it from them, but they are. They pick up on your general attitude and personality
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furbabymum
by Gold Member on Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:28 AM
1 mom liked this

 Of course we should never stop teaching our children right from wrong. However, a lot of these parents aren't any better than their children. Plus it's just attitude for some. My 10 year high school reunion is coming up. The "cool" kids in charge of it are really just trying to re-cement their place as "cool" imo. They're redoing prom and voting themselves in as president, vice president, etc all over again. I look at them and feel bad that after 10 years they still lack so much self esteem.

Quoting lizzielouaf:

While I agree that bullying will probably never stop I don't think we should stop trying either.

Quoting furbabymum:

 I'm sorry but I don't see bullying as being something we can stop, ever. It's too socially ingrained.

 

 

 

Ziva65
by Gold Member on Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:38 AM

I don't think we can stop it either. While my kids aren't bullies, my daughter and oldest son experienced it. My oldest just hit back one day when no one was looking, and it never happened again. I had spoken with the teacher, principal and parents even. It was subtle but he finally had enough. He didn't hurt the kid, but the kid finally stopped.

My daughter though is still in 8th grade, and I too have told the principal and teachers. There's this snotty girl at school is is rude and mean- the girl is even rude to me when I've been at school. She knows how and when to do and say things when no one else is looking. I've even spoken with her mother. The mom is a teacher at the school. People just don't believe it, because theis girl is so two faced. My daughter did though make other friends and has learned to take the high road. She can't wait to get to high school where she will meet many, many new people and have the opportunity to make even more friends.

It's hard, I'm not sure what the answer is. Parents speaking up doesn't really work either. It doesn't necessarily get to the underlying reason, such as the other kid's self esteem, jealousy or whatever the problem is. In both cases with my kids, I clearly see that the parents of the kids had issues as well, they are just like their kids. We can't change if parents are the role models for that behavior. It just perpetuates. Even adults act that way.

I hate to say it's human nature, because I don't think everyone is that way. I don't think it's natural to just pick on the weak. I think it really goes more to character. I know, even the best parents may have a kid that bullies, but somewhere in there those parents need to address the flaw- the self esteem or whatever the issue is.

Ziva65
by Gold Member on Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:49 AM

 

The last reunion I went to was my 20th. Not interested after that. I graduated in 1983, and our 30th is this year. What I have found so interesting is that those who bullied, had no character and it didn't change. Those that were into their looks and image, still are (but don't quite look so great after all this time....) The guys get fat and bald, a few are fit... the girls are stuffed into dresses that don't fit. The true friends still hang and enjoy each other's company.

I wasn't bullied in high school, but was in elementary school. I had a red nose from allergies, weird clothes because my parents were very European, curly hair that wasn't in style, on and on. It wasn't easy. High school seemed more open and accepting, but there were more choices for friends.

My son now sees the kids who bullied him in elementary school. They aren't friends, but he clearly sees that you reap what you sow. It may take years... but it happens.

Not sure, we can't teach everyone character, we can't teach everyone self esteem. We can put every law on the books and anti-bullying systems in place, but people are still people... it's not a utopian society...

 Of course we should never stop teaching our children right from wrong. However, a lot of these parents aren't any better than their children. Plus it's just attitude for some. My 10 year high school reunion is coming up. The "cool" kids in charge of it are really just trying to re-cement their place as "cool" imo. They're redoing prom and voting themselves in as president, vice president, etc all over again. I look at them and feel bad that after 10 years they still lack so much self esteem.

Quoting lizzielouaf:

While I agree that bullying will probably never stop I don't think we should stop trying either.

Quoting furbabymum:

 I'm sorry but I don't see bullying as being something we can stop, ever. It's too socially ingrained.

 

 

 


 

furbabymum
by Gold Member on Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:56 AM

 I was never bullied. Wasn't a bully either. Just a normal kid ya know. Anyway, I just don't see the point in going to a reunion. Those I wanted to keep in touch with I have and everyone else can go suck an egg. I just got added to the reunion FB page by a friend and I've been following the drama of it all.

I think you are totally right in your assessment.

I also still think it comes down to parents a lot. I know if my DS bullies I will not tolerate it. A lot of bullies have parents that are bullies though so..... No stopping that.

Quoting Ziva65:

 

The last reunion I went to was my 20th. Not interested after that. I graduated in 1983, and our 30th is this year. What I have found so interesting is that those who bullied, had no character and it didn't change. Those that were into their looks and image, still are (but don't quite look so great after all this time....) The guys get fat and bald, a few are fit... the girls are stuffed into dresses that don't fit. The true friends still hang and enjoy each other's company.

I wasn't bullied in high school, but was in elementary school. I had a red nose from allergies, weird clothes because my parents were very European, curly hair that wasn't in style, on and on. It wasn't easy. High school seemed more open and accepting, but there were more choices for friends.

My son now sees the kids who bullied him in elementary school. They aren't friends, but he clearly sees that you reap what you sow. It may take years... but it happens.

Not sure, we can't teach everyone character, we can't teach everyone self esteem. We can put every law on the books and anti-bullying systems in place, but people are still people... it's not a utopian society...

 Of course we should never stop teaching our children right from wrong. However, a lot of these parents aren't any better than their children. Plus it's just attitude for some. My 10 year high school reunion is coming up. The "cool" kids in charge of it are really just trying to re-cement their place as "cool" imo. They're redoing prom and voting themselves in as president, vice president, etc all over again. I look at them and feel bad that after 10 years they still lack so much self esteem.

Quoting lizzielouaf:

While I agree that bullying will probably never stop I don't think we should stop trying either.

Quoting furbabymum:

 I'm sorry but I don't see bullying as being something we can stop, ever. It's too socially ingrained.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OHgirlinCA
by Platinum Member on Feb. 25, 2013 at 11:59 AM
1 mom liked this

 I don't think bullying will ever stop, which is why I believe as parents we have to give our children the tools necessary to deal with bullies.

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