The 7th Annual Conference of the International Bullying Prevention Association in Seattle, Washington is coming up quick, and we really hope you’re coming (register here). We will be participating in a pre-conference on Monday, November 15th, and will be giving a presentation entitled “The Online Experience of Adolescent Girls: Cyberbullying, Sexting, and Relationship Abuse” on the morning of Tuesday, November 16th. Justin and I really look forward to meeting you if we haven’t already, catching up with you if we have, hanging out, and brainstorming about new initiatives and collaborations. Many people are doing awesome, pioneering work in the fields of bullying and cyberbullying, and we are honored to be able to rub elbows with them. If you have any questions about the conference or our roles in it, or if you want to get together to chat while we are there – please let us know.
Lets address the real Problem: why we are missing the mark on bullying.
By Mucheru Njaga
Author of Patch: Assumption is a crime.
I was a bully.
I didn't plan on being one. In fact, before then, I was a victim of bullying. As a freshman in a all boys boarding school, I along with all of the junior students served at the behest of the "Prefects", a small group of senior students. They ruled our school with a heavy hand and had more powers than the teachers. They bullied us physically and mentally , once we had to jump on our knees, other times they banned us from wearing pants and limited us to shorts to serve as a constant reminder to who we are. Verbal humiliation was an everyday occurrence as well.
Four years later, I became a "prefect", a bully and part of a system I once despised. We would raid the freshman area in the middle of the night and make them follow whatever we ordered them to do at 2am or face severe punishment. We called them names in front of the dinning halls and used them as practice dummies during rugby games.
All of this was acceptable – condoned by the school faculty at the time because the "Prefects" were seen as the guardians and mentors of the young students. Today the danger of bullying and its impact on our society is finally shaking many people awake. Many groups and organizations have made significant steps in our fight against bullying but there seems to be a growing number of bullying related deaths in America and the world.(STATISTIC)
So where's the disconnect? Why are we letting this happen?
Where does bullying start?
In our efforts to address this growing problem, we tend to focus more on the end result of bullying rather than why it starts. The kids we recognize as bullies and vilify as the aggressors could easily be our very own children or next door neighbor. In other words, for every victim, there is a perpetrator, and I set out to find out what turns a lovable kid or teen into a bully. For the last couple of years, I compiled a case studies I believe could be a catalyst in our bid to stop bullying.
Throughout my entire experience, I noticed the common motivation behind bullying is fear. As a victim, I was afraid to fight for what I knew was right and as a bully, I feared loosing the tight grip of power I held. It is this fear that keeps things status-quo and continues the cycle.
The same basic principle plays out in schools today. Bullying is almost always a direct or indirect by product of fear. "Fear" of being labeled, "fear" of being uncool, fear of being seen as weak. Most of not all instances of bullying are rooted on fear. Sadly, it is this fear that prevents kids from living a free life, where they are free to be different, to be gay, to love a certain kind of music or activity, to be themselves.
So how does true change take place?
Define bullying with your kids and talk it out: For teens public perception has a substantial influence on their daily decisions. We need to clearly explain to kids what bullying is, how to spot bullying tendencies within themselves and how to avoid acting them out.
Take away the cool factor:
Show kids that bullying stems from fear, and we could effectively render bullying as an "uncool" deed. The largely successful anti-smoking, "Truth" campaign and the anti-drug, "Rise above the influence" campaign ads help significantly reduce those habits among young people. A well executed marketing campaign endorsed by a popular teen celebrity that showcases bullying as an unacceptable act can help garner attention for the cause.
Be aware of tendencies towards bullying developing in kids:
Educators, parents and children alike must be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of bullying before the problem gets out of hand. If there is a widespread understanding that fear is the underlying emotion perpetrator of the bullying cycle, those who observe a child who exhibits signs of fear and insecurity can spot a problem early on and raise concerns.
Encourage self reflection:
Talk with children who are bullying others and encourage them to consider their behaviors. Often, another problem is bubbling beneath the surface and it is necessary to determine the rot of the behavior in order to fix it. Since this self-examination can prevent those problems form manifesting into something more harmful, the earlier it takes place, the better.
Promote open communication about bullying problems:
We have to change the way kids view talking to adults and authority figures about bullying issues. Kids are often worried about "snitching" and the negative perception of telling adults when they are having these types of problems. We must convince them that it is brave courageous and admirable to put an end to the situation instead of remaining silent.
Mucheru Njaga is the author of "Patch: Assumption is a crime", a young adult novel based in his personal experience with teen bullying that encourages debate and discussion among teachers, parents and students.
Receiving an e-mail, instant message, post on MySpace, made fun of in a chat room, posted on a Web site that made you upset or even having something posted that you didn’t intend on anyone seeing. Along with being afraid of going on the computer is some of the 43% middle school students agreed they experienced. This makes me upset and afraid because I don’t want my kids to experience things of this nature. It doesn’t do any good to the human body. It just makes matters worst and more terrifying for teenagers, parents and families. I don’t know now way to protect my future children from this besides keeping them away like have no computer or keep them home schooled. But that’s not benefiting them at all, because they should go to public school to interact with others. A computer is or maybe needed because you can do a lot of positives with a computer. So what do you’ll think I can do? I found a site that breaks the information down clearly enough and helps me with a way and more ideas to avoid what I don’t want to happen.
The link below is a site that states information on middle school bullying prevention and intervention.
When it comes to cyber bullying, we try to find ways to combat or prevent the harassment and cruelty from happening altogether rather than educating those individuals involved in the act. The author of the text suggests that some people believe the only way to prevent cyber bullying and the many negative aspects of the internet is to forbid kids from using it altogether. Although, that might sound like a good idea we should examine the negative outcome of that scenario. Think about a parent that ban their child from smoking, that child may obey their parent while in their presence but that child may rebel twice as hard when he/she is alone. Now, if you reverse that same scenario and allow that child to get an understanding of the danger in smoking such as cancer, lung failure and so on that child might make the right decision on smoking. The same thing can be said about cyber bullying, if you educate kids they will listen but if you just try a dictatorship approach they will rebel.