Bullying: Is There a Solution to the Problem? There sure is. And it starts with adults.
The issue of bullying is getting more attention than ever. Some of the biggest names in entertainment, from Lady Gaga to Sesame Street, from Cartoon Network to the Weinstein Company, are working tirelessly to raise awareness about what’s being called a bullying epidemic.
But is it really an epidemic? Or could it be that people simply can’t agree on what’s bullying and what’s not? “Bullying is unfair and one-sided. It happens when someone keeps hurting, frightening, threatening, or leaving someone out on purpose,” states Steps to Respect: A Bullying Prevention Program. It’s one of the first things adults and kids learn in the school-wide program, which happens to be the only bullying prevention program to show positive results from a randomized controlled trial among American school children.
Because of the anti-bullying legislation in place in many states, schools are under increasing pressure to identify exactly what bullying is. “There are some key elements that separate bullying from conflict,” says Mia Doces, a nationally recognized bullying-prevention expert who works for Committee for Children, the nonprofit organization that created the Steps to Respect program. “One is repetition. Did it happen once and then stop, or is it ongoing? Another is a clear imbalance of power. Is one child older, bigger, or more popular than the other? If so, it could be bullying. A fifth-grader repeatedly taking a ball from a third-grader at recess is likely bullying. Two fifth-graders disagreeing over which of them gets to use the ball first—even if the conflict becomes physical—is not. Conflict is still a problem that needs to be dealt with through a problem-solving process or peer mediation, but can and should be dealt with differently than a bullying problem.”
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