Valentine's Day has come and gone. Love is in the air. I'm sorry to say it's not alone.
Here in Massachusetts, bullying is in the air, and it's being taken to new levels. After a 15-year-old girl recently committed suicide, Boston Globe writer, Kevin Cullen, penned a stirring piece that's been widely read: The untouchable Mean Girls.
Has the message been widely absorbed, though? Some local schools are holding meetings and are beginning to address the issue of bullying. It's no longer something that only takes place face-to-face during school hours or extracurricular activities. When a girl returns home, she's able to close the door on the abuse and just be with the people she loves and cares about, right?
Maybe in ages past. Bullying is alive and well 24-7 thanks to text messaging and Facebook posts - cyberbullying is relentless. So, what can we do about all bullying and in particular about girls bullying girls (relational aggression)?
I don't know the answer to this question, but that's part of the reason for this post. What are the contemporary root causes of it? What are good preventive strategies? What are possible consequences & solutions? What's going on in other parts of the country?
Here are some of my thoughts/questions:
- Unfettered use of technology by teens needs to be addressed by parents and schools. We see this issue with teen "sexting" too. Laissez-faire parenting doesn't cut it. Parents need to educate their kids on the Golden Rule as well as set firm limits on tech. devices and their expectations for proper use. Adults need to shed their own tech. addictions if they expect their kids to. Teens don't respect hypocrites. They need good modeling.
- Schools need to hold assemblies/meetings with students and parents to create a culture of change. The nurse and administration at my school are being pro-active about this. Students are being informed of criminal charges that will be punishable by law. Prosecutors are looking into cyberbullying. All these communications can be traced. The message is: "You will be held accountable for your actions." Teens live under the illusion that their emails, texts, and posts are private or self-contained.
- Does modern-day girl bullying largely stem from sexual competition or something else? What role does a sexualized culture play in its escalation? How does it draw out aggression? How can modesty play a positive role in reshaping girl culture? Good girls need positive, strong peer groups to rely on.
I can't help but turn these questions over in my mind as a teacher, as I look at the faces of my 15 year-old girls. I see such a light in their eyes, such a beauty. How can they better see this in one another?