bullying | April 08, 2013

Most Kids Don't Bully: Education Speaker Emily Bazelon On Outlier Behavior

"Most kids don't bully. Most kids don't like bullying," Emily Bazelon says in a new talk. "And that's a really important message because when kids know that about their own school, studies show that they actually do it even less because they see it as outlier behavior." Bazelon is one of our new speakers on bullying and the author of Sticks and Stones. In her presentation, she points out the myth that we're in the midst of some kind of bullying epidemic. Rather, we're experiencing a heightened awareness of the bullying that's already going on. We may be seeing new forms of bullying emerging and are more cognizant of it—but there's no evidence to suggest there has been a massive spike in the number of bullying cases.

In the discussion with Dafna Linzer (managing editor of MSNBC.com) at the Bank Street School in New York, Bazelon discussed the impacts of 'cyber bullying'. One of the main differences between bullying that takes place online versus cases that take place offline is the inescapable nature of being abused on the internet. While children who are picked on during school hours used to be able to go home and get a break from the abuse, social media and texting has allowed the bully to continue to target their victims after the school bell rings. It's created a mismatched dynamic, Bazelon adds. "The victims may feel much more vulnerable as these permanent, visible, threads go out onto this big network," she says, "and the kids who are doing the bullying may be impulsively trying on a brasher or harsher persona online than they would in real life...that's the dynamic that makes the cyber bullying feel so devastating." She also says it's important to note that the kids who bullying online are often the same children who are doing it in real life.

We need to define these instances of bullying in very specific terms, Bazelon argues. When you incorporate any and all forms of meanness or random acts of aggression under the blanket of bullying it becomes an overwhelming issue. Then, it becomes difficult to solve. However, if you narrowly define what constitutes bullying and aim to understand the impacts it has on the victims, as well as the conditions that established the bully's abusive streak, then you can make positive changes. In her book, she provides a wealth of resources for educators, parents, and students on the state of bullying today. She also expands on these practical solutions in her talks. A senior editor at Slate and a New York Times Magazine contributing writer, Bazelon is a gifted storyteller who cuts to the heart of the bullying cycle—and gives audiences the tools they need to eliminate bullying from their schools.