Bullying facts: Sifting through the hype for a clear picture
Bullying facts are not as straightforward as you might think because "bully" has become a buzz word in education. Separating normal childhood development from a serious problem is increasingly difficult as the concept of bullying gets spin from interest groups.
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But now, she speculates, we are in a new phase: one in which people are challenging the assumption that bullying is a "natural" part of schoolyard dynamics.Skip to next paragraph
is a longtime Monitor correspondent. She lives in Andover, Mass. with her husband, her two young daughters, a South African Labrador retriever and an imperialist cat..
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She also sees a move away from the old narrative of the picked-on child finally coming of age by walloping the bully – something you've seen hundreds of times in movie and TV plots. (Think George McFly finally punching Biff Tannen in “Back to the Future.")
Over the past few years, there has also been an explosion of anti-bullying laws, anti-bullying curriculums, bullying research, and anti-bullying films, as well as non-profits and support groups.
Advocates who have long worked to raise awareness about the dangers and lasting impact of child-on-child cruelty say this new focus is a huge step forward. Lovett tends to agree.
“Young people are more familiar with the term,” she says. “And that means they’re more able to find ways to stop it.”
But others warn that this anti-bullying sentiment is not so straight forward.
There is widespread disagreement about what bullying actually is – and also about what to do about it. Some critics even wonder whether this explosion in attention – or hype, as they might say – is doing more harm than good, blurring the lines between normal developmental child conflict and bullying, tying up educational resources, and putting more pressure on schools to take action, any action, when there is little evidence about what policies encourage or discourage bullying.
(One related tidbit that we found interesting: Research has found that some anti-bullying initiatives, such as peer-to-peer mentoring, can actually increase the rate of reported bullying in a school.)
It’s easy to give lip service about having zero tolerance for bullying. But, some worry, when the term gets so broad it can lose meaning
Check out the variety of recent bullying-related news we've followed over the past months:
• The defense attorney for 15-year-old Perry Hall High School student Robert W. Gladden Jr. quickly mentions "bullying" as an explanation for why his client brought a shotgun to his Maryland school’s cafeteria and started shooting.
• The debate over whether it’s wise to have students across the country the movie watch the movie, “Bully,” which details, among other things, the suicide of a 17-year-old bullying victim. Controversy erupts over whether the portrayal of the school and victim are accurate.
With such a wide scope of behaviors and resulting behaviors, how can lawmakers possibly hope to regulate bullying?
That's the topic of our next post: anti-bullying laws.