Top 5 bullying myths: What you don't know about bullying

We all know that bullying is wrong but you may know even less about bullying than you originally thought. Monitor correspondent Stephanie Hanes debunks 5 popular misconceptions.

5. Bullying is a major cause of suicide and school violence.

AP Photo/The Republican, Don Treeger
A candlelight vigil was held Jan. 15, 2010 for freshman Phoebe Prince, 15. The South Hadley [Mass.] High School freshman killed herself the day before. Several of her classmates were prosecuted on charges connected to "unrelenting" bullying in person and online.

There have been a number of high-profile, tragic, incidents of bullied children committing suicide. School violence – most recently the shooting at Maryland’s Perry Hall High School  – has also been regularly linked to bullying, usually with the explanation of a bullying victim seeking revenge. But researchers say the connection between both school shootings and suicide is far more tenuous than popular media reports would have us believe. The media coverage of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings put the idea of the loner, bullied students taking out their anger through violence; author Dave Cullen, who was one of the reporters covering the story, spent the next decade researching his book “Columbine,” untangling the myths of trench coats and outsiders he says his media colleagues created.

“We all knew what happened there, right?” he wrote about Columbine in a New York Times soon after this summer’s mass shooting in  Aurora, Colo. “Two outcast loners exacted revenge against the jocks for relentlessly bullying them.
“Not one bit of that turned out to be true."

As far as suicide: While research has found that victims of bullying do face serious psychological challenges and is associated with an increased risk of self harm, there are typically other mental and situational factors also underlying suicides. The Centers for Disease Control found that suicide was the third leading cause of death for youth between ages of 10 and 24; it lists a number of risk factors, including depression, alcohol abuse to easy access to firearms.   

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Dear Reader,

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If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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