Is bullying unstoppable?


What is a bully? A bully–ooh! Bully. Noun.
A blustering, quarrelsome, over-bearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller
or weaker people. Bully, verb, to act in a loudly arrogant and overbearing way. Adjective,
bully, fine, excellent, very good. Okay, you know what dictionary you, you are just confusing
the situation. So on last week’s Ask Cristen video ‘Cutter
for Attention’ which was all about self-harming and what to do if you know a friend is self-harming,
Dulce Gonzalez said, ‘I do not believe anti-bullying campaigns work. On the contrary when one of
my friends took her life the bullying I received did not diminish. In fact it got so much worse.’
To which I ask can bullying ever be prevented? There has been so much academic attention
paid to these anti-bullying campaigns, how bullying works, what to do about bullies,
how to respond to bullies. As statistics popping up around my head will tell you, it is still
quite prevalent and ever more complicated by the existence of the internet and social
media and anonymous texting applications that allow people to harass people more than ever
before. And that hallmark of adolescent bullying behavior of it happening when adults are not
looking is obviously a reason why cyber-bullying thrives. Yes adults are on the internet, our
parents are on facebook but there are so many other places that we can go where adults are
not looking and even if adults were looking things can be anonymous so they wouldn’t even
know that we were bullying to begin with. The two things that jumped out to me that
do seem to be legitimately affected on a peer level basis are empathy and impulse control.
Teaching them how to put themselves in the other person’s shoes or even more broadly
teaching them how these instances of every day bullying behavior are reflective of historic
examples of social injustice and marginalization. That kind of empathy work has been shown to
be effective and it usually is also effective when kids collectively stand up to bullying
and I have a feeling that some kids are rolling their eyes right now because they’ve probably
been told this by a million teachers but there was an astounding statistic that I ran across
which found that if a kid is being bullied, if their peers in that moment confront the
bully, tell that bully to stop, instantaneously the behavior evaporates. The scary thing is,
what I do not have a ready answer for is well what do you do when you flip those numbers,
when it’s a group of people ganging up on one person which it seems like is where cyber-bullying
really becomes so destructive. When you have peer pressure involved to bully, things get
far more complicated in terms of uprooting it, in terms of kids being able to resist
the temptation to do that. In those kinds of situations a deep understanding of empathy
and also deriving one’s self-esteem from a healthy place and not just from a place of
what other peers are saying about you is going to be key however that’s a lot to expect of
kids. Maybe it’s just a question of what do we do as adults to help build that bridge,
to help give them those tools. There are also some more practical things that can be done
from a more technological side to deal with this impulse control factor. There’s been
some interesting work on apps that will delay social media posts or prompt you with a message
if it detects via algorithms certain harassing language and say hey, we’re going to wait
thirty seconds before you post this because do you really want to post this? Speaking
of cyber-bullying there was some really interesting research that came out of a team at MIT that
analyzed all of these YouTube comments and social media posts that had been previously
flagged by either moderators or users for either bullying behavior. They highlighted
these six categories of bullying speech online: Appearance, intelligence, race, ethnicity,
sexuality, social acceptance and rejection. Those are the boxes that bullies will usually
drop one of us into because it’s easy. The more you read about the more it blows your
mind that it is so persistent, it’s so easy to be mean and maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s
the thing, maybe that’s why bullying is so hard to uproot because it’s so much easier
sometimes, especially when you’re younger to be mean than it is to be nice. Even in
adulthood it’s so much easier to be mean. Another thing too about these bully prevention
programs is that they’re usually so reactionary and also usually focused on teaching kids
how to bully-proof themselves. Apples and oranges warning here, really reminiscent of
a lot of sexual assault prevention curriculum that is focused on how do prevent your own
victimization. Which makes the situation seem so much more helpless because well how am
I supposed to preemptively prevent someone else who I have no control over for doing
something to me that I have not in any way brought upon myself? Maybe one way to prevent
bullying is to rethink how we prevent bullying. And I just want to say though one more thing.
If you are a victim of bullying, bullying is not about you. That bully is merely looking
for some kind of power dynamic to exploit but that does not mean that there is anything
at all wrong with you or that needs fixing. Now I want to know your ideas on how to change
the world and I say how to change the world because imagine if we lived in a world without
bullying. It can be a lot harder to be a good human versus a rotten human but the effort,
totally worth it. Let me know in the comments below and be sure to ask me your questions
so I don’t just keep asking myself questions and rambling.