Why Bullying is on the rise and how to challenge it
April 20, 2010
In real life, being excluded from a group undermines a person's need for belonging, control, meaning and self-esteem, and can lead the victim to harm himself or herself, or other people, through violent acts, Maybury said.
For pre-teens and teenagers, who are beginning to identify more strongly with their peers than their families, the results can be devastating, as seen in the suicides of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince of South Hadley and 11-year-old Joseph Wheeler-Hoover of Springfield.
Where children were once able to find a sanctuary outside school, cell phones and social networking sites have brought the bullying into their homes.
The Characteristics of a Bully
During her lecture, Maybury asked Stonehill students what qualities they associated with bullies. Students suggested children who bullied were insecure, had low self-esteem, came from aggressive homes, were jealous and craved attention.
In fact, Maybury said, studies have shown that the opposite is true: That bullies actually have an inflated sense of self-esteem and a positive self image, a strong need for power, a motivation for prestige and success, and good relationships with adults, who often see them as "leaders."
Bullies are self-absorbed, intolerant of differences and refuse to take responsibility for their actions, Maybury said.
They have "attributional biases," meaning that if they see a girl wearing the same clothes to school often, they conclude she is "a loser, a geek, a weirdo," rather than understanding that her parents may not have enough money to take her shopping often.
Bullies are also "sneaky," Maybury said. Adults miss "the ugliness between peers" because most instances of bullying take place in very short episodes - about 29 seconds - while a teacher's back is turned in a classroom, as caught by surveillance cameras, Maybury said.
Other "hot spots" for bullying are lunch rooms, locker rooms, recess, school buses and certain hallways.
Ways to Counter Bullying
To counter bullying, schools are providing anonymous surveys and sharing the results with teachers, custodians and cafeteria workers; promoting a "Friendship Bill of Rights" that lists the qualities children want in friends, and offering "Shining Stars" to reward students who practice random acts of kindness.
Most of all, Maybury said, children should be taught and encouraged to stand up for others who are being bullied. The bigger the group of bystanders, the more difficult it is to find someone willing to intervene, Maybury said.
While standing up for someone being bullied is "tremendously difficult," Maybury said she teaches her own children that the hardest part is "being brave once." After that, it's easier, she said.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.