Can technological solutions fix technological bullying?

Yes. Well – somewhat. Let’s begin at the beginning. Apps and programs designed to help kids report and cope with bullying and cyberbullying are beginning to litter the landscape. Some of these technological solutions alert adults to language that might be bullying or cyberbullying, while other apps make reporting much easier for their child or teen users. There are programs that control use of social networking, and apps that help children find a trusted adult. The approaches may vary, but all these programs and apps have a few things in common. Continue reading

The Top 5 Things Every Parent Should Know About Cyberbullying


“Three months ago Rebecca Ann Sedwick was found dead after jumping off a cement plant tower, an apparent suicide as a result of alleged intimidation from peers at her school through social media. Dr. Elizabeth Englander, Professor of Psychology at Bridgewater State University and the Director and Founder of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, has been working tirelessly on educating the country on bullying and its effects in hopes of preventing what happened to Rebecca from happening again. Her book “Bullying and Cyberbullying”, which was recently published by Harvard Education Press, does just that. Dr. Englander is here with us today to share some facts that every parent should know about cyberbullying.”

Continue reading here….

Philip Chism, Accused Murderer, Is The Teacher Now

There are reams of research on the causes of aggression and violence. We know that it’s a very complex behavior; that it can involve problems in child development; certain temperament or personality types; mental health issues; cognitive and learning dysfunctions; the society, and the social messages, that one is raised with; the people who are around you; traumas like bullying and cyberbullying; your social and emotional intelligence; the parents who raise you; and external factors, like substance or alcohol abuse. If you were to pile up every journal paper published on the causes of violence, you could probably fill a room.

Those of us who study aggressive and abusive behaviors are schooled in the identification of “risk factors,” though – not “causes” per se. Why? Because although we can demonstrate that risk factors are associated with violence, there doesn’t appear to be any solid “cause.” Continue reading

The Most Common Errors Kids (And Others) Make Online

Want to have an interesting conversation with your kids? Read aloud this column, and ask them their opinions. It’s fine if they disagree – the point is to have the conversation, and plant some seeds! Below you’ll find six of the most common reasons that kids get into trouble online – notice that none of these are “technical” issues at all. Continue reading

CNN: Don’t Blame Bus Driver (Guest Commentary)

What would you do?

Last month, on a school bus in Florida, a 64-year-old bus driver witnessed a vicious assault on a 13 year old boy. He radioed the bus dispatcher and frantically begged for assistance, as he feared the victim was being seriously injured. But he did not physically intervene. While the victim’s physical injuries may heal, the child’s psychological trauma will undoubtedly linger, including the harrowing sense that no one came to his aid.

But before we pile on the driver, let’s be clear: the most egregious wrong-doers here are the violent teens. They victimized a 13-year-old boy horribly and inexcusably, and secondarily, wronged the agonized bystanders. A violent perpetrator offends against everyone in a community. The driver’s anguish at his own inaction may be real and palpable, but should he still have done more? Obviously, he wasn’t confident enough of his own physical ability to handle several violent teenagers….SEE MORE

Is summer a break from bullying and cyberbullying?

Decades ago, a student being picked on by a classmate saw June as heralding relief. During the off-school months, targets escaped their daily tribulations.

But today, when so much bullying occurs online or outside of school, a target may know that summer doesn’t mean a true break. The school hallways may be empty, but the Internet buzzes with a newfound energy when the weather is hot. It’s certainly true that many summertime activities attempt to get children to forgo electronics – sometimes even successfully. I’ve also noticed in the field that students are becoming increasingly aware that constant connectivity is probably not healthy. Continue reading

Is Terrorism A Form Of Bullying?

As I’ve written before, the word “bullying” is broadly applied to many situations where it really isn’t relevant. But perhaps acts of terrorism are situations where it is.

This week in Boston, the issue has special meaning for us. Are terrorists, like bullies, intentionally targeting us for a campaign of cruelty from which we can’t defend ourselves? Theoretically, bullying has three characteristics: it’s intentional, repetitive, and takes advantage of a power imbalance. Like bullies, what terrorists do is certainly intentional – it’s no accident that people died, or were horribly injured, a week ago at the Boston Marathon; that’s undoubtedly exactly what these men intended. And what we’re seeing is also repetitive – terrorism would have much less impact if it was an isolated incident; it’s intended to be a Damacles Sword, hanging over us like a perpetual threat. Just like bullying. Continue reading

Responding to Psychological Bullying

It would be nice if anytime bullying happened in a school, a large, blinking sign identified it as such. Now, you may think that that’s not necessary; that “you know it when you see it” and so it’s easy to recognize bullying when it happens. Once, that may have been true. When bullying was predominantly physical, it wasn’t too hard to identify a transgression.

But today, most bullying is psychological in nature. That makes things much tougher, because psychological cruelty isn’t always bullying – not by a long shot. Continue reading

New research: Kids are overusing the word “bullying”

Are you tired of bullying?  It seems like every time we turn around, yet another behavior is described that way.  The word is sometimes used to describe virtually any situation that involves anger or unkindness, but researchers and experts clarify that bullying is actually more than just meanness; it’s cruel, repeated abuse against a less powerful victim. Now, new data from a study of mine suggests that the term is being used too broadly, at least by teens. Over the last six months, I’ve asked more than 300 college freshmen if they were bullied or cyberbullied during high school.  An astonishing 70% answered yes.  But when I confirmed whether the incident was repeated, the percentage dropped to 40%.  It dropped even lower, to 17%, when I ruled out incidents where the “victim” felt they had as much (or more) power than their “bully.”  Incredibly, 53% of the teens in this study were using the term “bullying” to describe either fights or single acts of meanness. This doesn’t mean that they weren’t truly upset or traumatized.  It just means that the source of the trauma probably wasn’t bullying, per se.

Outside the lab, I’ve seen the same trend. Name it, and I’ve probably been told that it’s bullying. Even doctors overuse the term – one told me that being honked at on the highway was bullying.

You could argue that all this doesn’t really matter; but in reality, it does. I think that overusing the word is actually harming kids. Calling a severe assault “bullying” trivializes that crime. On the flip side, labeling an equal-power quarrel between friends as “bullying” puts all the blame on one participant – instead of both kids just making up.  After a fight, it’s difficult to say you’re sorry and repair a relationship; it’s much easier to just claim victimhood. Maybe worst of all, branding every conflict as “bullying” waters down the very real pain and trauma of a victim who’s endured a litany of vicious cruelty and who cannot defend themselves.

I’m not suggesting that anyone is trying to deliberately minimize bullying, or to prevent children from learning how to resolve conflict in their relationships. There are clearly more innocent motives at play.  Sometimes, children use the word “bullying” because they want or need adult attention. Or, they might be angry at a friend, or want to avoid the hard work of resolving a problem.  Parents may worry that if a problem isn’t “bullying,” then the school won’t take it seriously; or worse, decide that their child is partially responsible. At times, using the word “bullying” loosely can avoid difficulty or unpleasantness. But learning to deal with some of these difficulties is part of the hard work of childhood. If a child doesn’t learn how to resolve a quarrel with a friend, how will they cope with conflict as an adult?  Next column: now that we know we should tell the difference between a fight and bullying, here’s how to do it.

Do Video Games Promote Cyberbullying in Elementary School?

There’s plenty of aggression to be found in video and online games. First person shooters, war games, explosions…..You name it, and you can probably find it on a trendy game.  These games are extremely popular, with two-thirds of high school boys reporting that they play such games in my research.  But game-playing isn’t just a teenage pursuit.  Over 90% of 8-to-11-year-olds were interacting online, usually by playing games, in my 2012 study of more than 11,000 elementary-aged children. Continue reading