What Does Bullying Suggest About Our Culture

When you start talking about the statistics
of how many kids say they’ve been bullied or have bullied themselves I often wonder
what that data means because we didn’t poll kids on bullying before you know so when Phoebe
Prince committed suicide that was the big catalyst to enacting the bullying legislation
in Massachusetts and now we’re acutely aware it and we track it more and we’re worried
about the numbers that we see in terms of people reporting how they’ve been bullied
but I’m not uh I mean I don’t have a degree in sociology so I’m not sure it’s any worse
than it’s ever been if you look through history there’s all kinds of evidence that bullying
goes on in society whether it’s in schools whether it’s in business or other places uh
and so I’m not sure that it’s any worse it could be I’m not sure it’s any worse than
it’s ever been I just think we’re more acutely aware of it and that piece is a good thing
that we’re trying to teach more about it teach people coping skills teach people how to uh
curb their behavior and be more resilient you brought up something interesting because
some would say that bullying is simply a something that’s always happened in our society and
we all seem to have survived it and it’s just a way that we pass through our younger years
into adulthood and what would the response to that be well if you ask just me and then
other folks can weigh in to me some of that is absolutely true I think the problem today
that we’re dealing with with this generation is what uh Rick talked about the the texting
the social media you know kids can be a lot more bold today because they can sit behind
a computer and draft and e-mail create a web site they can text on their phone uh not recognizing
the long term consequences of creating that electronic foot print which is a whole nother
issue but I do think it’s worse because it’s heightened because they have that protection
around them one they reach out and engage in this behavior when before we had to do
it face to face you had to be pretty bold that’s right but I also think that looking
at it as a right of passage or a harmless right of passage would be the same as looking
at road rage as a right of passage for drivers or date rape as a right of passage you know
for young women I think that that would be serious mistake uh it’s not a necessary right
of passage it’s an unfortunate event it’s a tragic event in some cases and I think one
of the things that’s critical is at the same time we separate bullying and conflict teaching
how to manage conflict and therefore resilience is an important step of what we have to do
in schools and as parents as well but uh but bullying is a separate category that creates
an enormous amount of harm that lasts much longer than may be apparent to simply the
ending of the event uh so I I just wanted to kind of separate that and there’s a difference
Diane between kids will be kids and teasing and then intimidation and violence and it’s
nothing more than abuse uh Massachusetts has also enacted a new law at around the same
time uh that the legislature passed the anti-bullying law another law on harassment prevention and
so parents actually can uh go to the local juvenile court if their children have been
harassed and take out a harassment prevention order as well well you bring up something
interesting that I’m wondering about are bullies kids that are bullies tomorrows abusers I
mean is there a link between kids who who bully when they’re young as to abusing their
kids or their partners as they get older could be because again bullying is a form of abuse
bullies in many in many instances are victims themselves so if we don’t somehow stop the
cycle like we talk about with child abuse they could then become you know abusers in
later life as you’re saying what I like about the Massachusetts statute is that uh the treatment
and prevention and everything involves not only the victim the target but the aggressor
as well the parents of the bully get notified uh and the the school you know puts into place
what can we do to now you know help this the kid that’s bullying as well not just the bully
in answer further to you question a lot of bullies do end up creating uh criminal activity
later on if there is no intervention in the same way if I drive down ninety three at a
hundred miles an hour and I’m never stopped I will continue to drive at a high speed but
all I need to do is be stopped once or twice and then the message becomes this is a very
expensive behavior I better knock it off that’s it’s unacceptable and I better stop unacceptable
yeah This excerpt is brought to you by the Massachusetts School of Law