Bullying has become an issue that has reached critical levels in the past decade; thus, demanding national attention. In the last few years there have been teen suicides that have received full media coverage bringing the severity of the problem to light, something that we hadn’t experienced before. There are programs such as the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP), which has been in place since the early 1980s and has been proven to work in Norway as well as in other countries holding a nationalized curriculum for elementary and secondary schools, unlike the United States (Limber, 2011). In 2007, in an attempt to bring the OBPP method to the United States, there was a small-scale study which involved three elementary schools in southern California. After implementing the program for three years the evaluation showed promising results of having reduced the initial victimization and bullying instances (Limber, 2011). However, there has been criticism on bullying research methods overall.
Most definitions share the following four components: intentionality, repetition, imbalance of power, and diversity of manifestation, but they differ on the actions that comprise of the act of bullying (Schoen and Schoen, 2010). According to Nan Stein, author of the article What a Difference a Discipline Makes (2001), she states that under the various definitions of bullying that have been postulated by experts on the field “almost anything has the potential to be called bullying [ranging] from giving “the evil eye” … to [any] verbal expression of preference towards particular people over others” (p. 2). In addition, offensive behavior is sometimes vaguely put under the bullying umbrella “when in fact they constitute of criminal hazing and sexual/gender harassment,” which are against the law (Stein, 2001, p.2). Bullying does not constitute of a law violation, but the definition is so ambiguous that creates a grey area and many actions that are intolerable by law are soften and labeled as bullying. This may happen due to the lack of recognition between legal and illegal conduct, and the confusion left over the elasticity of the terms.
Furthermore, the results obtained from the schools in southern California on the OBPP study in 2007 were self-reported surveys taken throughout the research. Even thought self-report methods are of great value, some researchers have suggested that “bullies may underestimate their involvement in bullying and victims may not wish to recall incidents of victimization that may be upsetting for them” (Leff, 2007, p.408). Therefore, this could have caused the decrease in victimization and bullying throughout the study instead of the strategies used. Moreover, when people know something is being done to solve the problem, they tend to become more subtle to forgive and forget about past incidents as long as a greater good is being pursuit. In addition, staff and students often perceive bullies as being quite popular as well as being feared; something that is not often taken into account when trying to correct the bullying behavior (Leff, 2007). Hence, making intervention methods challenging to strategize because not only do the researchers have to address the social payoff the child obtains from the continued bullying behavior, but also the cultural differences and society’s concerns.
Although the studies might have been flawed, there are many anti-bullying organizations developing as I have mentioned on previous posts. These organizations started to develop from the constant exposure of the severity of the bullying behavior making it reach critical levels. Unfortunately, it took the loss of the lives of young individuals for people to realize how severe the children can be affected by bullying. The increase of national awareness has been made possible due to the parents and loved ones who have lost someone or know a victim of this revolving issue; People that are willing to stand up and speak out about how bullying has destroyed their life and the life of the life of their beloved ones. Everybody deserves a chance to feel comfortable and safe on their day to day environment.
However, as awareness is being raised to stop bullying, there is another uncontrollable factor that is slowing down the process of accomplishing a bully-free society, named technology. The continuous technological advances of the cyber world have made it possible for traditional bullying to reach a deeper level because of the capability to bully someone anonymously (cyberbullying). But as we know, technology is not stopping this movement of reaching a society free of bullying. In fact, thanks to technology we have been able to share the information across nations and have sped up the raise of awareness on this matter. It is not only the increase of awareness and the desire to stop bullying which provides a promising future to decrease it theoretically across nations, but the willingness of people to achieve this goal; and in order to accomplish it, it is necessary that further research is implemented to obtain the actual depth of the problem in terms of numbers and issues that need to be address through reliable methods. The research requires taking into account the complexity of the issue and all of its components that need to be factored in the strategies used to combat the problem. Also the definition of bullying needs to be narrowed down to specific terms as well as self-explanatory to avoid confusion or elasticity over the terms. But, in order for programs to give positive results and function adequately everybody especially parents need to get involved in their child’s growth and education, so the problem can be targeted and prevented at a young age. If we all keep investing our efforts for a bully-free society, rates will reduce dramatically within generations.
Leff, S. S. (2007). Bullying and Peer Victimization at School: Considerations and Future Directions. School Psychology Review, 36(3), 406-412.
Limber, S. P. (2011). Development, Evaluation, and Future Directions of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Journal Of School Violence, 10(1), 71-87. doi:10.1080/15388220.2010.519375
Schoen, S., & Schoen, A. (2010). Bullying and Harassment in the United States. Clearing House, 83(2), 68-72. doi:10.1080/00098650903386444
Stein, N. (2001). Introduction—What a Difference a Discipline Makes: Bullying Research and Future Directions. Journal Of Emotional Abuse, 2(2/3), 1-5.