CNN’s Anderson Cooper commissioned sociologist Robert Faris to conduct a study on bullying, and it confirms what many already knew.
It’s not just the bad kids who put down the weak ones. The good students who are just as likely to jockey for social rank at the expense of their peers.
“It’s really not the kids that are psychologically troubled, who are on the margins or the fringes of the school’s social life. It’s the kids right in the middle, at the heart of things … often, typically, highly, well-liked popular kids who are engaging in these behaviors,” Faris told Cooper.
Meet the modern-day bully. Those straight-A kids have not only taken over the academic scene, they are mowing down anyone obstructing their climb up the school’s social ladder, and usually right under the adults’ noses. The study points out that kids are engaging in “social combat” in schools in affluent areas as well.
Our Parents Council considers the question: Would you want to know if your child is a modern bully?
Tonia Accetta: I applaud Anderson Cooper and his 360 team for taking a look at bullying in our schools today. It is a tough subject that can even be felt by some adults in the work place. The nation’s school anti-bullying programs are not working, so a new perspective is needed as our kids are exposed to more and more aggressive behaviors from their peers.
The internet is great technology and with the recent passing of Steve Jobs, I am sure that we all appreciate these advances in the way we communicate, but let’s not forget the simplest form of communication, family coming together over dinner.
I invite any parent to contact me if my children are involved in bullying, in the same way I would like to know if they are seen NOT wearing a bike helmet – safety is safety and with the headlines that we read about bullying this is clearly a safety issue.
Tam Dorow: Based upon the most recent studies on bullying, I think it’s safe to say that everyone middle school age and older has engaged in bullying behavior and has been the victim of bullying.
Bullying seems to transcend social, economic, race, religion and culture differences. It’s a universal, almost primal social mechanism. I wonder if it’s part of our survival instinct. Most of us at some point or other has engaged in bullying behavior with or without realizing it. It becomes a problem when the bullying gets excessive and results in irrevocable harm to others.
I know as an adult I often experience people attempting to bully me. I’m sure if you ask my husband he will say that I bully him all the time. We adults tend to engage in more sophisticated, subtle and non-physical bullying. Is it any wonder our children engage in bullying? Adults are constantly modeling those behaviors and often with some degree of success. Even the highly revered Mr. Steve Jobs has done a bit of bullying. God bless his soul.
As with any other social problems, the first step in combating bullying is awareness and education. As we develop more coherent and universal definitions for bullying behaviors, we will better identify and stop those behaviors.
It’s conversations like these that help bring bullying into our social consciences, help educate us and eventually help us to curb this insidious tendency.
Kurt Sauter: I don’t think that it is surprising that various forms of bullying are found in schools. There are many forms of bullying throughout life. This includes the workplace and society in general. Parents influence their kids to become bullies in many ways. Parents criticize other parents for how they raise their kids. They criticize actions by others in social and athletic situations. Parents often blame teachers for bad behavior of their children. It is a natural defense mechanism to label and blame others for insecurities within ourselves.
I would like to know if my children displayed any form of bullying. I would like to talk to them about their motivation and what type of perceived results they derived from their actions. I think it is a terrible problem, but suspect many parents would become defensive if you told them their children were being bullies. The argument that they needed to “stand up for themselves” is often a justification for bullying, I suspect. I believe the recent study indicates that justification will be the main culprit in the lack of any progress in eliminating the problem.
Suzette Valle: The line between bullying with physical aggression by those considered the undesirables at school, and the social combat so-called good students wage has been blurring for some years now. Survival of the most popular is the path to social status. This has become the norm in the current hyper-competitive environment students navigate, especially at the high school level.
This social cruelty is condoned by some parents and other adults who turn a blind eye. Some parents go out of their way to ensure their children are popular regardless of the manner in which they achieve it.
Though most of this inequity takes place in the school halls, schools can only do so much. Parents need to do their job at home, too.
Would I want to know if my child is engaging in this subversive behavior? Yes, I would.
Tonia Accetta is stay-at-home mom of a teenage boy and a preteen girl. She moved to Coronado in 2002 with her husband of 15 years.
Tam Dorow emigrated from Vietnam when she was 10. She worked at all of the Big 3 U.S. car companies and has been a stay-at-home mom of two for the last 10 years.
Kurt Sauter is a father of two sons, works part-time as a chief engineer and system architect and volunteers with Coronado youth sports organizations.
Suzette Valle is a 20-year Coronado resident who was recognized by Time Warner as one of the local “50 Best Moms” in 2006. She has appeared on the Dr. Phil Show and blogs at MamarazziKnowsBest.com.