We read and hear about bullying in the news daily. But, what is bullying, exactly? Is it conflict? Picking on someone?
Emily Bazelon, a New York Times best-selling author of “Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy” and Slate contributor, defines it as verbal or physical aggression that is repeated over time and involves a power imbalance.
Bazelon addressed approximately 130 health professionals, lawmakers, researchers and educators at the Minnesota Children’s Museum on Sept. 11. The event built upon work Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has done around bullying, including a report released earlier this summer: “Understanding the threat of bullying.”
Here are some noteworthy messages from the evening:
- Social media is a vehicle for bullying. But if it’s happening online, it’s probably happening offline, too.
- For the target of an online bully: The Internet makes it feel like bullying is happening 24/7. It’s permanent and visible, and it can potentially reach a bigger audience.
- For the online bully: He or she doesn’t have to look the target in the eye, there’s no face-to-face feedback and it can be anonymous.
- We spend little time talking about whether social media companies need to play a role. That needs to change.
- We need to send the message to kids that bullying isn’t normal behavior, and it’s not something everyone does.
- Bystanders who watch bullying often have the most power to stop it. Bystander kids intervene about 20 percent of time.
- A message for kid bystanders: You don’t have to be a hero. A thoughtful or empathetic message like “Are you OK?” can be helpful.
- What do we do about bullying? Bazelon emphasizes prevention and intervention, which can’t be done in a day. We need to help shape who kids are.
Read more about bullying and how one local family overcame it.