Anti-bullying Campaigns are Missing the Mark

Shelley S
572 days ago.

Last Monday I wore a red dress to work.  It was a bold statement and I received more than a few comments about the vibrant wardrobe choice, but I was wearing red in support of the “Drug Free, Bully Free” week that was happening at my daughter’s school.

In recent years, there has been a tremendous amount of attention given to anti-bullying campaigns.  Following the local suicide death of Megan Meier in 2006 as a result of cyber-bullying, there has definitely been increased attention in the area of bullying prevention, but are we really taking the right steps?

Are anti-bullying campaigns missing the mark?

I remember growing up and there was one “bully” at school.  He was always a boy, typically larger than all of the other boys and liked to use his size to his advantage.  He was mean, would pick fights and would regularly land himself in the principal’s office, but that was pretty much it.  Granted there were always mean comments that might be received from any number of other students, but that wasn’t considered bullying.  Fielding an insult or two was just part of being a kid, but this behavior now is deemed worthy of blowing the whistle on bullying.  The whole approach is prime for anxious hypochondriac pupils to slap on a red shirt and share through broken sobs just how bad they have it.

The campaign is all about talking about it:

What is bullying?

What to do if you are bullied?

What to do if you see someone being bullied?

etc.

By the time the assembly is over, even the bullies are feeling like victims.  It’s no different than self-diagnosis on WebMD where your itchy skin has just become a cancer death sentence.  Suddenly a peer’s lack of preference for your skinny jeans has made you the poster child for bullying.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there is definitely something to say for the overtly heinous acts of bullying and shedding light where certain behaviors have gotten out of control, but I fear we are creating an entire society of victims.  Not to mention, the burden of proof in a true case of bullying largely falls on the victim where it’s my word against yours, and discipline is rarely distributed without concrete evidence.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of websites exist exclusively on the content of bullying and many such as bullyingstatistics.org seek to address the root cause of “Why do people bully?”  Many of the results as to the source of bully origins point to instability in essential aspects of the bully’s world, whether that be home environment, work place, or emotional instability as the result of their own victimization.  This makes me think that we need to change the conversation.

What if we addressed the source?

Rather than treating the symptoms of the larger problem, why not exhaust our resources on eradicating the core issues by encouraging healthy dynamics?  Support for children in unstable home environments, education, training and team building for the work place, and resources for effective communication of emotions. It’s really no different than the obesity epidemic in our country.  Rather than the millions that are spent on the development of new diabetes medications, why not create reform in the food industry?!  Granted, that’s another issue for another time, but the conversation is the same– Let’s start tackling the disease instead of the symptoms.

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Shelley S

Shelley is a St. Louis native, but a nomad at heart and has lived in most areas of the city. She is mom to two miniature versions of herself that keep her laughing all the time. A self-professed fitness and nutrition junkie, you’ll usually find her at the gym or in the kitchen. One of her favorite things to do is take delicious recipes and make them healthy. Known for randomly busting into song and/or dance, Shelley has never turned down a challenge and secretly believes she can do anything.

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