Although bullying is common, between one in four and one in three teenagers will be bullied at some point by some estimates. It is rarely devastating. The roots of adolescent suicide are complex but if there’s one common denominator, it isn’t bullying – it’s mental illness. Most bullying still happens the old-fashioned way, in person. The social panic over bullying has created a growing industry of experts and consultants to fight it.
Anti-bullying programs do more harm than good. Seokjin Jeon, a criminologist at the University of Texas, analyzed data collected from across the United States to assess the effectiveness of different programs. To his shock, he found that they didn’t work. In fact, they often made the problems worse by showing bullies new techniques and better ways to cover their trails.
Helen Guldberg, British child development expert, says that the term “bullying” is now so expansive that it’s become meaningless, e.g. the new Manitoba law which contains reference to “hurt feelings.” She argues that learning to deal with conflict, aggression, embarrassment, negative relationships and rejection is a crucial part of growing up. Increasingly interventionist parents are doing kids no favours. Guldberg says that the adults are creating a “culture of victimhood.”
That’s not to say that adults shouldn’t intervene when they see kids behaving badly. But the anti-bullying industry’s done a lot of harm by playing down the resilience of ordinary children while selling a cruel simplistic cartoon of adolescent suicide. — Margaret Wente, Globe and Mail, October 29, 2013
A fragmented approach with small initiatives to prevent cyberbullying does not represent a comprehensive integrated response to the issue.