- Last Updated on 02 August 2012
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The issue of bullying weighs heavily on the public consciousness, having evolved into something much darker and more menacing than bullying of past generations.
The Columbine massacre, when two students who had been bullied for years killed 13 and wounded 24 before taking their own lives, served as a wake-up call. Forty-nine states have introduced anti-bullying laws, and the White House held a conference on bullying last year. The release of the documentary "Bully" has kept the issue front and center.
Although awareness has increased, the problem continues to have far-reaching consequences. The Yale School of Medicine reports a strong connection between bullying and suicide. The suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds has risen more than 50 percent in the last 30 years. For every suicide, 100 more kids attempt to take their own lives. And studies indicate that bullying is linked to 75 percent of school shootings.
Victims of bullying experience a terror and hopelessness they are ill-equipped to handle. Developmentally, teens are battling for autonomy. Being bullied is an assault on that autonomy, but telling an adult also threatens this independence. Victims become caught in a cycle of being bullied and a reluctance to speak up.
But it isn't just the struggle for autonomy that keeps kids quiet. Bullies often hush their victims with threats of physical harm or death.
Such brutal threats seem to have become acceptable to a generation of youth desensitized by violence in the media, gory video games and reality TV, which normalizes raunchy behavior. Moreover, under cover of the Internet, bullies become fearless, launching cyberattacks that spread wildly and intensify victims' distress.
How can we abate this dangerous problem?
It begins with awareness. Media coverage and films such as "Bully" provide an extraordinary service in defining the problem.
It's also critical to equip youths with actionable tactics that will change the course of bullying. Because, for victims, kids who simply stand by and watch are no better than the bullies themselves.
Consider these interventions:
Empower teens to put an abrupt end to bullying by getting between the bully and the victim. Taking a stand may encourage other students to stand, too.
Teach kids to befriend classmates who seem vulnerable to bullies. Walk with them to and from school. Sit down with students who eat lunch alone. On their own, they live in constant dread of the next attack. With a friend, the real and perceived risks recede dramatically.
Recognize and report instances of bullying. Pay close attention to kids who seem to be alone all the time, who suddenly retreat from the social scene, whose grades and health plummet or who verbalize a desire to retaliate. Be watchful for kids who appear aggressive or attention-seeking, have little regard for rules, and dominate and demean others.
Encourage adult intervention among kids who witness or suspect bullying.
If we are to curtail the cycle of bullying and diminish its devastating consequences, we must be vigilant, compassionate and absolutely unwilling to simply stand by.
Steven Gerali is the dean of the College of Theology at Grand Canyon University and the author of "What Do I Do When Teenagers Encounter Bullying and Violence?"
Source Website: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/google/bully/~3/kQbJXHcR7EI/url