Time magazine was out this month with a great article taking a look at the controversial idea that school anti bullying programs do not work. Drawing data from a study published in the Journal of Criminology and other research, Time concludes that while bullying has declined overall, its decline cannot be positively attributed to school anti bullying programs.
While we would certainly like to see bullying be a thing of the past, and definitely agree that schools must deal with the repercussions if the bullying happens in school or impacts what goes on there, we aren’t terribly surprised at Time’s conclusion.
Schools have a lot on their plate just getting through the curriculum. Effective bullying prevention can be a huge undertaking, and every child is different. Not being a bully comes naturally to some kids, and directing good behavior in others can take considerable time and effort – it could take years. We would argue that parents alone are qualified to undertake this effort, and should have every incentive to do so. Parents can’t leave the job of ensuring that their kids are good people who treat others with respect to anyone else.
Where should parents start? A better question might be “When should parents start?”
The most recent bullying data out of our home state, New Jersey, indicates that in school year 2011 – 2012, students in grades 5 – 8 accounted for 31% of the student population but were responsible for 52.5% of confirmed acts of bullying. Recent bullying data out of Nevada confirm that bullying cases are most prevalent in middle school.
If over half of bullying incidents happen in middle school, the answer to the question of when to start with anti bullying education is “as early as possible.” The anti bullying message needs to extend to online activities as well.
In terms of cyberbullying, kids are being given electronics, often with internet connectivity, at younger ages than ever. Phones, iPods, gaming platforms, tablets and computers can all be used to interact with others online, and so can be used as a medium for bullying. Often kids believe that online actions are less real than in person actions, which is not the case.
You may have seen the story this week of the Florida teen who committed suicide after being cyberbullied by two other unrepentant youths. Despite the fact that the victim had been hospitalized in December after hurting herself as a result of similar bullying, the school and the victim’s parents were unable to put a stop to it. The bullies’ parents may not have been aware, but arguably they were the only ones who could have been positioned to stop it, or prevent it before it happened.
Parents need to be aware of what their kids are doing online in order to guide appropriate behavior. Don’t forget to start early.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.