Schoolyard Bullying: No Longer the Stereotype

A recent study commissioned by CNN and conducted at The Wheatley School in Long Island, New York, set out to understand more about the bullying epidemic that is consuming our schools nationwide. The study included more than 700 students who were given a survey with 28 questions on aggressive behavior four separate times throughout the semester. They were also given a roster of the entire school in which every student had an identification number and kids were asked to write down specifically who did what.

The study found that fifty-six percent of students surveyed were involved in aggression, victimization or both. The research also found that most of the behavior is occurring below the radar of adults, with 81% percent of aggressive incidents never reported. What was most interesting about the results of this study is that the stereotype of the schoolyard bully preying on the weak doesn’t reflect reality in schools. Rather, it suggests, that it is the well liked, popular “middle-ranked” kids that are doing the bulling (and becoming the victims) in an attempt to improve their social status within the group.

Lauren Sax-Hanninen, a counselor at Polaris Counseling who specializes in working with children and teens, says this:

“The article sheds light on modern bullying and highlights that, unfortunately, bullying in different degrees is a commonplace occurrence in almost all schools. It is part of a complex social hierarchy process that kids turn to in raising their social rank and status. It shows that kids who have been in the position of bullying have also been the victims of bullies themselves. Contrary to the stereotype that bullies are often loners or kids who have many other emotional issues, popular and high-achieving students are often involved in bullying patterns. For parents, it is important for them to be aware that it is possible that their child is involved in bullying even if their child has a lot of friends or seems to be doing well.

The article pin points a possible direction for bully prevention efforts to take. Since bullying is an activity that kids learn and model from their friends, it is likely that other, more positive behaviors may be as contagious among peer groups also. Additionally, it is so important that kids understand that bullying behaviors have no impact on their rise in social status. There are many better ways for kids to expand their social circles, and this type of education may help kids make more positive choices in their social behaviors.

As always, it remains so important for parents to continually check in with their kids, be involved in their lives, and ask about how things at school are going. Parents must pay attention to any changes in their kid’s behavior and not ignore a potential problem. Kids and teens will often embrace this open door of communication with their parents and, most importantly, not feel alone in the process. Schools, parents and kids can work together to end the war on bullying through programs at school and communication at home. Only then can we expect to see a decrease in these shocking statistics that plague our schools.”

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