As I was sipping my morning coffee, I came across this article: As popularity rises, so does the risk of being bullied by Michelle Healy, of USA TODAY. It is an interesting article, but I want to address some of my concerns. Kids climbing the social ladder are not more likely to be bullied. They will go through some drama, gossip, and rumors as they climb to the top, but bullying is not the right word to describe their rise to middle school fame.
Bullying is defined as: Using your power, over a period of time, to emotionally or physically hurt someone on purpose (Owleus, 1997). Adults and the media are using the word “bullying” to encompass different behaviors such a teasing, relational aggression, harassment, drama, conflict and cyberbullying. Labeling every negative social interaction as bullying adds to the confusion and unresolved issues. This article is a perfect example of how bullying is often used as a generic word to describe negative social skills. The article also contradicts the very definition of bullying and the imbalance of power. Michelle Healy wrote that students might get bullied as they climb the social ladder. However, that does not make sense since student climbing this social ladder tend to be more popular and gain power on their way up. The issues that the author speaks about might have merit, but the definition describing the behaviors faced is incorrect!
Michelle Healy is among the many concerned about social issues faced by children and teens today. But, as the media has great influence on the minds of others, media authors need to stop jumping to conclusions and leading the audience to many assumptions.
The media has a much bigger impact than actual research and we need to be aware of this influence. Bulldog Solution has not seen a correlation between the ideas displayed in the article. Our model of differentiating negative behaviors and responding to them independently has been the greatest influence in decreasing bullying and violence in the schools we work with.
Bulldog Solution has been digging deeper into the roots of these negative behaviors and collecting data. In our programs and trainings, we use our behavioral model to address the different types of negative behaviors in school aged children and teens. With the research and articles we have collected, we have developed some clear and simple definitions:
- Bullying is when a person uses his/her power, over a period of time, to emotionally or physically hurt someone on purpose.
- Conflict is when two individuals get into an argument or disagreement. The individuals have the same amount of power and are arguing verbally, physically, and/or using the internet as a means to argue.
- Teasing is when one person is making fun of another person. There are different types of teasing: good teasing, bad teasing, and unintentional teasing.
- Gossip and rumors is when people share private information about someone or false information about an individual(s) with the intent to spread the knowledge.
- Cyberbullying is when someone is using the Internet as a channel of communication to bully someone else. Again, it is using power or social media status to intentionally harm another individual emotionally over a period of time.
- Drama is when you combine the rumors, gossip, and teasing. Then add in the conflict between individuals and voilà you got some drama. Drama is not bullying, as there is not a differentiation in power between groups or the individual(s). With drama, the person being targeted is retaliating or fighting back. If there is no fighting or retaliation, then the situation displayed is good old-fashioned bullying.
- Harassment is when a person is being threatened and their safety is at risk. Harassment is illegal and there are measures to protect children and teens in this situation. Threats of violence or inflicting harm are seen as harassment and need to be reported immediately to the police.
- Stalking is when someone is following a persons’ every move and harassing them online or face-to-face. The individual being targeted is fearful for their safety.
So, you see there are many terms to describe the different negative behaviors often labeled as “bullying”. We need to change our perception as adults and learn about these different behaviors in order to properly and effectively resolve these situations regarding our children. We can’t label everything as bullying, it won’t solve the problem only dismiss what is really going on.
To learn more about bullying, conflict, and drama, please click here and visit our knowledge center.
Until Next Time….
Smith, P. K., Cowie, H., Olafsson, R. F., & Liefooghe, A. P. (2002). Definitions of bullying: A comparison of terms used, and age and gender differences, in a Fourteen–Country international comparison. Child development, 73(4), 1119-1133.
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