A Brave New World for Bullying

Monday, December 3, 2007

While the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control recently announced that Internet bullying has increased by 50 percent, the reality is that Internet bullying is still relatively less common than other forms of bullying, according to Sally Black, Ph.D., an assistant professor of health services at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, who studies bullying. She cites name-calling, exclusion and physical abuse as more common forms.

"In order to stop bullying before it scars a child so much that he or she resorts to school shooting plots or suicide, schools need to focus on the emotional, physical and academic well-being of all children," Black suggests.

"New students need to be acclimated quickly, bullying needs to be identified and corrected by adults who witness it, and parents should be partners in identifying underlying issues, such as exposure to violent video games or domestic violence," she adds. "Engaging children in mentoring programs and youth clubs are effective vehicles for teaching social behavior and providing positive outlets for energy."

Black stresses the role that adults need to play in addressing and understanding bully behaviors. "Adults must recognize that children are still learning social skills," she says. "We do not punish children for spelling errors or math mistakes, so why do we punish them for social mistakes. Most bullies are just trying to figure out what they can get away with. When adults draw the line, they teach social skills to the bully and the bystanders."

If bullying progresses to the point where the victim becomes an attacker, adults should be aware that most attacks end before the police arrive on the scene. Black suggests that every adult in every school should be trained in negotiation skills.

Black can be reached for comment by e-mail at sblack@sju.edu, or by calling the Office of University Communications at 610-660-1222.

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