Kids on the margins need unpacking of societal norms
Kids on the margins have long had to deal with societal pressures and the need to conform to certain norms. But a recent focus on bullying and gender norms is a reminder that society needs to do a better job of recognizing and responding to such pressures.
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After those focuses came “race” (16%), “sexual orientation” (14%), and “family income” (13%). ["Moderate" was defined as “bothered me quite a bit”; "severe" as “I had or have trouble eating, sleeping, or enjoying myself because of what happened to me”; and "severe" as “I felt or feel unsafe and threatened because of what happened to me.” About a fifth of all students surveyed had experienced regular victimization (2 or more times a month) and of that one-fifth, a little more than half were experiencing moderate-to-severe mistreatment. Here's my post on the study .]Skip to next paragraph
Anne Collier is editor of NetFamilyNews.org and co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a Web-based interactive forum and information site for teens, parents, educators, and everybody interested in the impact of the social Web on youth and vice versa. She lives in Northern California and has two sons.
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From recognition to compassion
What to do? Well, a significant first step, I think, is recognizing what underlies the problem and responding intelligently to that. To begin to recognize together the “ideals” we’re all conditioned to have and the pressures on everybody – male, female, young and older – to “fit in” and conform to them is huge. Right there, we have cause for compassion (for ourselves, too) and empathy. At the school level, it’s clearly going to be social-emotional learning, or social literacy, that really gets to the underpinnings of bullying (in social media environments, social literacy is logically just as essential to functioning effectively as media literacy and digital literacy). What we gain in social literacy we gain in safe, constructive activity in social-media as well as home, classroom, and workplace environments.
“The argument that teaching children how to recognize and manage their emotions should be part of the standard curriculum of schools is backed by science,” writes psychologist Susan Rivers, associate director of The Ruler Approach SEL program based at Yale University. Social-emotional literacy in school clears space for learning as well as relating with each other better. “A systematic process for building emotion skills and cultivating mutually supportive relationships is the common element among schools that report an increase in academic success, improved quality of relationships between teachers and students, and a decrease in problem behavior,” Dr. Rivers continues. “Teaching children to say no – to drugs, to alcohol, to sex, to bullying – has little scientific support.”
Laws and policies may provide some support, unless they have a strictly punitive focus. The best support they can provide is to promote socially literate approaches to schools’ investigations into and handling of bullying incidents, ideally calling for social-emotional learning at schools – in other words, adding social literacy to digital and media literacy instruction. These three literacies overlap more and more. They’re the three-legged stool not just of new media literacy but of efficacy and success in this digitally informed, networked world of ours.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Anne Collier blogs at NetFamilyNews.