YA Confidential is an excellent blog about all things that concern young adults. Last week their teen participants discussed bullying with one of the blog hosts. These insightful young people had a lot to say. I found their comments on why people become targets, whether or not it helps to have an adult step in, and the role of the balance of power in bullying very interesting. I’m sharing the article here, but you can also read it on the YA Confidential website. (The bullying section begins partway down the page.)
|Bullying. Is in-person bullying more or less prevalent than online bullying? What about verbal bullying versus physical bullying?
Katy U: I’m wondering if online bullying is more prevalent because of the anonymous factor.
Gracie: I could definitely see that Katy – people can hide behind being anonymous
Gracie: But it’s definitely still present in person, especially at school
Alexandra: Yes. And I think online has a passive component to it, too. It’s easier to click “like” on a mean Facebook status than it is to stand there and watch while someone’s getting made fun of.
Lissa: In-person bullying seems more prominent in my area than online bullying, just as verbal bullying is more common than physical bullying. I haven’t heard much of cyberbullying since, like, fourth grade. Actually, I think cyberbullying is more common with middle-grade kids because I’ve heard a lot more it from younger relatives who are from grades 5-8.
Gracie: I’d also say that verbal bullying is more prevalent
Katie: In-person is bigger I think because kids and teens today don’t realize that they are being mean rude or hurtful.
Gracie: Yes, Katie so true. I find a lot of bullying is really subtle
Laura: From my experience, in-person bullying is definitely more widespread. I’ve only witnessed online bullying a handful of times. Verbal bullying also seems like the common route for bullies. I’ve never actually seen or heard of anyone getting physically tormented. Note: I’m home-schooled now but I spent seven years at regular school where I was verbally bullied, on and off, during my time there.
Lennon: I honestly don’t really see a lot of bullying at my school or online that much but what I do see is normally online. I’ve actually never witnessed physical bullying before, all that I’ve ever seen (in middle school, some of high school) has been verbal abuse.
Alison: My thirteen year old says Facebook “fights” are not unusual. And a bunch of her friends scream “FACEBOOK FIGHT” and go watch people duke it out in the comments.
Alexandra: Sadly, I have adults on my feed who do the same thing.
Katy U: I do too, Alexandra, though I imagine it’s so much tougher in high school
Gracie: Gah… that’s so awful. 20:57
Katie: Reall,y Alison? I’ve never heard or experienced that.
Alison: It’s on my feed too – mostly with former students. I ignore it
Gracie: Why do people do that anyway?
Alison: Good question, Gracie
Katie: Facebook fight or bullying in general?
Gracie: I guess bullying – but also Facebook fighting.
Gracie: Mostly Facebook fighting though
Katy U: I think the crowd mentality can be a powerful thing, and maybe because it’s easier to hide behind a computer screen?
Katie: Facebook fighting, I don’t know… Bullying in general, some people think it’s funny, and others do it to bring themselves above others.
Which brings us to another question: At your school, what kinds of things do kids get bullied for? Is it boy/girl drama centered? Just kids picking on others for whatever reason?
Laura: Kids were bullied for ridiculously stereotypical and materialistic things. There was always something to criticize, whether it was their weight, their height and their friends or the quality of their clothing, the mole on their face and the amount of make-up they shielded themselves with. It was for deeper things, too – like for being too smart, for being too dumb, for being weak or for being strong enough to stand up for themselves. It was for being different; it was for being themselves. But, most of all, it was suffocating.
Lennon:My school is not normal. It has a zero tolerance policy for bullying and if you get caught, you will face severe punishment. One girl got expelled for saying a slur to another girl about her sexuality. However, based on what I see at my base school, people can be bullied because of their race, sexuality, size, looks, if they are a virgin or not, how much money they have, how nice their clothes are, etc.
Katy U: Lennon, I love that your school has a zero tolerance policy and actually enforces it!
Gracie: People at my school are bullied for being really out of it. There’s this one student with special needs that gets picked on… people like that. It’s really sad
Alison: UGH, Gracie – that makes me so…sad and MAD
Gracie: I don’t see a lot of boy/girl drama bullying though…
Katie: I don’t think it’s boy/girl related at least from what I’ve seen. I mostly see what Gracie sees.
Gracie: Honestly I don’t think they know, because like I said before a lot of bullying is just really subtle – little things that students do to show they don’t accept a person or that they don’t approve
Katy U: Gracie, that is heartbreaking… I remember similar incidents back when I was in HS though
Lissa: I have a lot of immigrants where I live, and those are the kids that get bullied the most because of their accents or traditions. What’s most common is kids being bullied because they don’t quite understand what’s going on, as they’re not familiar with North American culture or language.
Katy U: It seems like being overtly different makes kids (people) the biggest target, whether it’s how they look or differing interests, etc…
Katie: On the flip side though I see people stepping out of their comfort zone to befriend special kids.
Alison: I see that at my school too, Katie
Gracie: I think a lot of it is this mentality that a majority of students have to not like/approve of certain students, and then everyone starts thinking like that because it seems like everyone else does
Alison: Most of the bullying at my school, at least what I’ve observed or heard about is petty, catty stuff, IMHO – and usually among underclassmen
Can adults (parents, teachers) do anything to stop bullying? Or does involving them only make the situation worse and cause retaliation?
Lissa:From previous experience with bullying, whenever an adult or teacher has gotten involved, things have gotten worse. Still, that’s not to say I don’t think adults should get involved, because I totally think things are bound to get out of hand if someone isn’t monitoring bullying. I know that students are taught about how to deal with bullying constantly, but I also think that adults and teachers should be given more options and ideas on how to help deal with what’s becoming a huge problem.
Katy U: Great point, Lissa.
Lennon:I think that, based on what I have seen, getting adults involved would be helpful for a short amount of time, but once the adult feels that the problem has gone away, I believe that the bullying would continue.
Katie: I think parents play a huge role. Not in stopping it but in preventing it. Don’t allow your kids to be mean at any point. Teach them morals before they reach the point of bullying others.
Alison: well said, Katie
Gracie: Katie – yes! Teacher and parents need to demonstrate and teach respect.
Alison: And I think there’s a more conscious effort on that in schools these days
Gracie: Honestly there were some teachers at my school who were bullies themselves just by being so disrespectful
Alison: Gracie – that is HORRIBLE
Alison: but I sadly see it too
Katie: Kids and sometimes grow adults don’t understand that to get respect you have to give it first.
Katy U: I see bullying among people my age too… Even the writing community has a bully emerge now and then
Katie: Wow, Katy, that’s sad…
Gracie: Don’t some writers attack Goodreads reviewers that gave negative reviews? I don’t know a lot about it…
Katy U: Honestly, I try to stay as far away from all of it as I can. I hear about it, then I ignore it.
Laura: Bullies are relentless and giving them a slap on the wrist or a lecture isn’t going to change that, or at least it didn’t at my school. Personally, I was too embarrassed to admit that I was being bullied but I knew kids who did and, sadly for them, the situation didn’t change.
Katy U: It’s maddening to know that tons of kids suffer in silence because they’re afraid to step forward. No one should have to be afraid at school.
Gracie: Gah… bullying makes me really frustrated. Why can’t everyone just be nice and respectful?? It works so much better…
Katie: I agree, Gracie. Some people just can’t seem to be able to so that.
Katy U: Well said, Gracie
So, if you were aware of someone being bullied (say, you heard rumors about them or saw nasty things posted on Facebook) would you say something? Or would there be something (like fear of the bully turning on you) that would make you hesitate or stay silent?
Lennon:It depends on the situation. My friends are very sarcastic so things can be taken out of context a lot. If it was bad enough, I would say something. It also depends on the person doing the bullying. If it’s someone who is known for being a jerk, I would probably just ignore it, maybe talk to the person being bullied just so they know it’s not personal. I don’t think I would care if a “bully” turned on me, they are just people with a power complex that they will eventually grow out of.
Gracie: To be honest I wouldn’t always do something, just because it’s easier not to. Also, sometimes it’s really hard for people to be reasonable about things like that, especially online
Katie: I wound try to befriend the victim and try to show by example that there’s is no point to bullying this kid. If it continued, I would go to an adult.
Gracie: Sounds like a good plan Katie
Katie: Thanks. It’s work several times.
Alison: It does sound like a good plan, Katie. And Gracie – I think a lot of kids feel like you do. Like a) there’s no point or b) it’s easier to stay out of it. Or at least I bear witness to some of that with my own students.
Gracie: It takes bravery to do what Katie does
Alison: I imagine sometimes it’s hard to tell if people are just playing around if there’s really some serious damage being inflicted
Gracie: Yes, that too
Alison: And yes – it does take bravery to do what Katie does.
Laura: If it would help the situation, I would definitely say something.
Lissa: I also try to step in when I see kids getting bullied – I tend to interrupt the conversations going on, or “accidentally on purpose” get in the way when the bullied is getting interrogated. More often than not I hear a lot of back talk, and I try to steer away conversations from the person at hand.
Stopbullying.gov says that in bullying there is a power imbalance, real or perceived. What kind of perceived power imbalances exist in your school? (like… cheerleaders are superior to band members, for example.) Are there any REAL power imbalances? (like… a really huge kid threatening to beat up someone tiny)
|Katie: I think that the problem with people today is that they don’t see or understand where the line is between teasing and bullying. A friend of mine once told me true friends don’t tease they encourage.
Gracie: I think that’s true, Katie. I think this was mentioned before but a lot of people don’t think they’re hurting anything when they are
Alison: agreed – until it escalates to something WAY out of control
Lennon: In my school, the upperclassmen seem to think that they are better than the younger years. There are a few people who believe that they are the God’s gift who think that they can do what they want when really people just hate them and say crap about them, which I don’t see as bullying at all. If you can dish it out, you better be able to take it too.
Katie: I think there power imbalances but I don’t think it’s possible to stereotype it to one group. I think it’s just some people who choose it, consciously or not.
Lissa: I feel as if my school is very vain, personally. It always seems like the most gorgeous, or richer people, become a hundred times superior to everyone else.
Alison: Sometimes that teasing/bullying line is a hard one for even teachers to read. In my classroom, not so much, but outside of it – sometimes kids really are just messing around.
Katie: Yes and when it’s out of control sometimes it’s too late to fix it because the damage is already done.
Gracie: I think that happens with teachers who are disrespectful sometimes too – they think they’re being funny
Alison: AGREED to both of those statements!
Katie: When teachers do that, they don’t realize it gives the students the right to do the same
Laura: I agree that some kind of power imbalance is involved in most cases. For example, I’ve known richer kids who think they’re entitled to look down upon poorer kids and seen plenty of kids who have a large group of friends mock those who have less or none. I’ve also heard bigger kids threaten smaller kids before but never actually seen them act on it.
Katy U: I remember witnessing those same power imbalances when I was in high school, Lara.
Alison: I don’t know that there are any stereotyped power imbalances at my school. There are just some people that don’t get along or don’t like someone for whatever reason – not confined to a group
Gracie: Oh that makes sense… and it’s so true, Katie. Alison – same at my school
Alison: From a teacher’s POV, I just have to know my kids – which ones I can be sarcastic with and which ones need a little more sensitivity. But sadly there are teachers that use sarcasm or derisive humor with everyone – and it rears its ugly head
Katie: The teachers do have a hard time I believe with identifying that line. I’ve had only one teacher who has used sarcasm incorrectly.
Alison: Fortunately – I don’t see many teachers like that.
Gracie: Neither do I, actually, just a couple. Most of my teachers are awesome
Alison: Anything else you’d like to add on the topic of bullying?
Katie: Encourage… don’t tease! People might take it the wrong way!
Alison: Great advice, Katie!
Gracie: Be respectful!
Isn’t this a great bunch of young adults?