Understanding bullying

danah boyd sez, "Alice Marwick and I just crafted an op-ed for the New York Times entitled 'Why Cyberbullying Rhetoric Misses the Mark.' It's based on a new paper that we just released called 'The Drama! Teen Conflict, Gossip, and Bullying in Networked Publics'. This topic is particularly relevant right now given the tragic suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer."
While teenage conflict is nothing new, today's gossip, jokes, and arguments often play out through social media like Formspring, Twitter, and Facebook. Although adults often refer to these practices with the language of 'bullying,' teens are more likely to refer to the resultant skirmishes and their digital traces as 'drama.' Drama is a performative set of actions distinct from bullying, gossip, and relational aggression, incorporating elements of them but also operating quite distinctly. While drama is not particularly new, networked dynamics reconfigure how drama plays out and what it means to teens in new ways. In this paper, we examine how American teens conceptualize drama, its key components, participant motivations for engaging in it, and its relationship to networked technologies. Drawing on six years of ethnographic fieldwork, we examine what drama means to teenagers and its relationship to visibility and privacy. We argue that the emic use of 'drama' allows teens to distance themselves from practices which adults may conceptualize as bullying. As such, they can retain agency - and save face - rather than positioning themselves in a victim narrative. Drama is a gendered process that perpetrates conventional gender norms. It also reflects discourses of celebrity, particularly the mundane interpersonal conflict found on soap operas and reality television. For teens, sites like Facebook allow for similar performances in front of engaged audiences. Understanding how 'drama' operates is necessary to recognize teens' own defenses against the realities of aggression, gossip, and bullying in networked publics.
The Unintended Consequences of Cyberbullying Rhetoric


  1. Separating “drama” from “bullying” is a really pithy & wonderful way of framing the debate.  I mean, we all have heard spooky anti-bullying-measures stories, but we’ve all heard spooky bullying stories– both are true, & the line of “drama” encompasses the margin.  I haven’t read the article itself yet, but I am excited to.

  2. From the Marwick boyd paper: “Even the pop cultural depictions in television shows like Glee feel irrelevant to many teens.”

    The writers on popular TV shows so often use a ‘chinese restaurant menu’ system – y’know, “pick two from column A, one from Column B…”.  Me, I find the usual, overused, boring, clichéed plots lines drive me to turn the TV off.

    Really, did your high school’s quarterback sleep with the principal’s wife?  How many times did a bully pour a tall cup of bright purple goop on your white cardigan because he didn’t like your glasses?  When was the last time your High School spent a hundred thousand dollars on a stage production?  ReallY?  They can barely afford to pay for textbooks!

    Maybe in the ‘States’, it’s different.  Or maybe the people who write these plot lines have little or no imagination.  

    Me, I found that most schools day-to-day happenings are closer to that found in “Gregory’s Girl”, or in “Prom Queen: The Marc Hall Story” (based on a true story).  Or the students at Central Kings Rural High School in Cambridge NS.  See http://www.pinkshirtday.ca/about/.

    Maybe a little positive example will result in positive behaviour.

  3. I was bullied in elementary school. By the time I got into highschool I had learned to deal with it. The skills I taught myself in school for coping with bullying and later stopping it altogether have been enormously valuable to me in my working life. I have seen many colleagues over the years reduced to a sobbing mess by the slightest critical remark of a supervisor or coworker. I have never had this problem.

    1. Yay, you.  But, as you’ve noticed, not everyone has been able to establish coping mechanisms against their own friends and classmates (later, co-workers).  I imagine that, for some people, the idea of HAVING to create coping mechanisms to deal with those around us whom we have expectations to NOT be mean to us is just incomprehensible.  So, they never develop them. 

      The “problem” is not your colleagues’ inability to deal with basic meanness from other adults, but in the meanness in the first place. 

      And this idea of, “I was bullied . . . it made me stronger . . . now I don’t let it bother me” is its own form of bullying.  Or, at least, intended to be guilt-inducing.  It’s saying that anyone for whom it’s a problem is wrong, or they did something wrong (that being NOT learning to stand up against it).  It also completely dismisses those who weren’t “strong enough” to learn these skills. 

      1. Understood, but I guess my point is that maybe we would be better off teaching kids some defense than attempting the impossible task of eliminating bullying. At best, anti-bullying measures will encapsulate the formerly bullied students in silence. If saying the wrong thing to Eugene may result in you being expelled, it’s probably best to completely avoid Eugene.

        Also, if someone has been taught that the way to deal with bullying is to report an episode of “level 3 bullying” to the proper authorities, how will this person function in an adult workplace?

        1. What defense is there? I can’t really think of any that actually work. Especially when you think of the complex, mostly non-physical types of bullying.

        2. IME, adult bullies in the workplace resort to “adult” authority all the time. It’s one of their favored tactics. As for people who believe bullying activity simply disappears with “adulthood”, wake up.

          Did you think these psychopaths just got raptured after high school graduation? NFW. They work among you.

          1. Yep….my partner just started a new job. The interviewer asked him “We have a rogue electrician, do you think you would be able to work with him?” He found out in a few days during his first safety meeting that  this guy practically runs the place, dropped the f-bomb like it was WW2 and this guy IS a bully, more on the thuggish side too and has taken to calling my partner (who’s 5’4″) a Dingleberry  Strange that the interviewer would include this guys personality in a new-hires  interview. No, he’s no ones son, husband or nephew. Just a bully. My partner is 45, this guy is 53.

            Dingleberry: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=dingleberry

        3. Devils Advocate: So if every child learns self defense, the next move would to be out of arms reach, so we’re talking throwing knives and guns instead? I’m just remembering that funny scene in Indiana Jones. 

    2. Well, bully for you. lol

      Are you, perchance, a heterosexual white male? Your privilege is showing… and your comment smacks of victim-blaming.

  4. In my experience with bullying, and response thereto, the disconnect that I ran into was that there were Benevolent Authority Figures(who actually did care) and others, who cared only about as much as regulations required.

    The latter, of course, where useless. However, the former were actually even more useless. The sort of kind, caring, empathetic personalities who were drawn to Really Caring about bullying were exactly the same ones that had a profound inability to recognize the gravity of what they were dealing with, and could reliably be sucked into endless rounds of “Hey, let’s get the victim and the bully togehter(conveniently telographic who squealed to authority) and have them talk out their differences and make it all better…)

    Earth to do-gooders: bullying isn’t a “misunderstanding”, where two friends who just haven’t met yet need some help coming to value each other’s unique specialness. It’s a form of low-intensity, but effective, unilateral violence. There isn’t a “difference” to be settled, there’s a party inflicting violence because it is fun and empowering, and somebody on the receiving end.

    Unfortunately, the sort of empathetic types who actually care about the chap on the receiving end have difficulty fathoming the fact that the one dishing it out isn’t making a mistake, he’s doing it because the suffering inflicted is a feature, not a bug. The ones, by contrast, who well understand the perp’s psychology generally don’t care about the victim.

    1. Well said. Often the bully doesn’t care who the victim is. It’s the act and whatever reward the bully feels they’re getting from doing the act that they’re after.  Oh, they might claim to some interviewer that they’re against the victim’s sexual orientation, religion, race, whatever; but truth be told they’re after the rush the torment or the drama causes.

  5. Bullying is awful and it’d be nice if we could stop it, but isn’t that a little like trying to stop crime?  We don’t like it, it’s rough on decent folk, but it’s not really something we can prevent.  Some people are just criminals.  Some people are just bullies.  Punish them when they do it but there’s no way to innoculate society against them. 

    I was bullied in high school, too.  The teachers and administrators were aware of the problem but didn’t actually do anything to help me out.  Eventually a bully shoved me against a wall, and I broke his nose.  Nobody ever bullied me again.  I abhor violence and like to solve my problems with words, but sometimes slugging a guy can be a declarative statement.

    That said, I could go home at the end of a day of high school, and be in my private, safe place.  I don’t think it’s really fair to tell bullied kids that if they don’t want to be bullied they should stay off the internet.  It’s a tough problem.  One I’m glad I don’t really need to worry about.

    1. I prefer to think of using violence against bullies as a polite, conciliatory gesture:

      Just as it is polite to at least try to pick up a bit of the local language when travelling abroad; when dealing with sadistic animals who communicate primarily in violence and suffering, demonstrating a modest knowledge of their native tongue seems polite and broadminded, in addition to being effective.

    2. Crime not something we can prevent? Are you even a little bit serious?? Like, the difference between (say) the crime rates of Norway and Mexico is just random noise, not something that has any causes?

      If you’re saying we can’t prevent 100% of it, then that’s true of basically anything, like disease or homelessness. But that’s not exactly a useful observation when it comes to recommending action.

      Either you’re just talking crazy, or you don’t seem to have a point at all.

      1. My point is that we can’t prevent 100% of it, yes.

        And you’re right, I don’t have a solution.  That doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to comment on the nature of the problem.  I don’t know anything about cars either but I can tell when something’s wrong and I can take it to a mechanic.

      2. So many parallels here to discussions about rape and sexual assault… victim blaming galore. No proactive or concrete ideas- or even an attempt to come up with any. Because, ‘hey, it’s always going to happen, so why not be more careful’ or some such garbage… :(

        1. Saying we should be teaching people skills to avoid conflict is not the same thing as blaming the victim. Throwing out “victim blaming” every time someone suggests that potential victims learn ways to avoid the problem is a cop out that avoids the real issues here.  

          Bullies DO need to be dealt with, but that doesn’t mean a one-sided solution will be as effective.  It’s more efficient to approach the problem from both sides since there are certainly skills a potential victim can learn that can reduce bullying before it starts.

          1. Yeah- but it is victim blaming. So, I’m not ‘throwing it out there’ (nice ‘splaining there, dude- and nice scare quotes). It is also not a ‘cop out’. And, you can bite me for saying so. I am calling it what it is. Period.


            The focus needs to be on stopping the perps AND changing our culture so that it is not rewarding bullying. There are reasons why this kind of thing is rewarded. Watched any TV or movies lately? Bullying, abuse and dishonesty innundates our culture. You’ve got your ‘mean girls’ who are ‘frenemies’ and you’ve got your wide varieties of toxic hyper-masculinity (watched any sports lately?). It is everywhere! There is no way for the victims of any kind of bullying or violence/abuse to ‘prevent it’. You can’t- not unless you never leave your house. Sometimes, not even then.


          2. You know, one could almost take your hostile response as a form of bullying, which I guess is somewhat amusing considering the context of the discussion.  I don’t think anything I said warranted that. 

            I also still stand by the comment that your overuse of “victim blaming” ignores the complexity of the issue and makes it difficult to have a real discussion.  Just to clear it up for you:  A bully is responsible if they bully someone, and I’m not excusing that act with anything else I said in my previous two posts.  I think some of the others you’re ignoring are similar. I also don’t think anyone disagrees that bullies have to be punished and we should take steps to get rid of them.

            Having said that, as someone who claims to have taken self defense classes (which I have as well), I would expect you to understand that part of martial arts is knowing how to avoid conflict in the first place before having to resort to physical violence, so once again, it’s a skill that has nothing to do with blame.

            So, suggesting that people be educated in non-violent ways to avoid the bullying in the first place is not the same as saying they deserve to be bullied or that it was their fault if they are.  What exactly do you have against the idea of teaching potential victims how to stop a bully from escalating to violence?  It’s simply acceptance that the problem is more complex than some would like to think and that only focusing on the bullies is not going to work all the time.

            In an ideal world we’d be able to remove all assholes, but the reality is that some are going to exist, so learning how to deal with them is not a bad thing.

  6. I had to deal with bullying – and a combination of being a weak child and having poor control of my temper meant normally I was the one to throw the first punch, and get ruthlessly pounded afterward. As I got older and took martial arts, I got control of my temper (and got stronger). Had bad problems my freshman year in high school – it got bad enough that these guys were knocking me out and leaving me in the hall…

    It wasn’t until I completely lost my shit and went after an entire pack of them, and drew a bit of blood, that most of them backed off. The last one ambushed me with a weight bar a week later. I have a badly done replacement tooth from that one, and he went off to jail (finally).

    Nobody defended me until it went that far – that kid was in a special program for troubled teens, and was only put in mainstream classes for gym. Complaints went nowhere.

    Funny thing is, after that, I never had problems in school – something about getting up after getting hit in the face with a 40 pound piece of steel and screaming at the asshole, blood flying around, made them finally back off. And I’ve had a huge chip on my shoulder ever since.

    We need to do something about this problem – the ones who can’t deal with conflict, the ones who need to humiliate others, and the do-nothing school administration that doesn’t care so long as they don’t have to clean up blood. Mind you, this was in the early 90s, but younger friends of mine tell similar stories from their high school days.

    1. WOW. That’s horrible! No guidance counselors, teachers or your folks or anyone to help you stop it? I’m so sorry. That getting knocked out and left in the hallway? I’ve been there. Not at school, though… so horrible… it sucks you had to lose it to stop it, but that’s usually what it takes. No talking does any good with assholes like those. The last (and I do mean LAST) person to bully me in school got a broken nose, a fractured arm and a suspension for starting a fight with me. They started it, I finished it. Nobody helped me stop it, either. Nobody had my back.

      To this day, I stand up and defend those who are being harassed or bullied in any way. I have taken 3 different martial arts (I’m taking krav maga now), and numerous self-defense courses. Most of my skills I learned by fighting. Argh. I am beyond any fear, mostly, and I can handle myself in a physical altercation just fine. Fuck that bullying noise, forever.

  7. Even today, I almost want to post this anonymously, but I was bullied when I was in school. My reluctance to talk about it is because I don’t have a story of how triumphed. I didn’t learn coping skills. The ‘talk it out’ stuff my parents and teachers taught me didn’t work. I didn’t learn to fight back “to teach them a lesson.” And I thought (accurately, probably) that talking to an authority wouldn’t accomplish anything.  It just continued until I graduated. And, as they say, it gets better. People don’t physically assault each other in college or the working world, and the few verbal bullies I’ve encountered don’t have that much power (turns out to be a career-limiting move for them).

    Did bullying have a lasting impact on my personality and the way I engage in the world? Who knows, that’s a chicken and egg sort of thing. But 1. I empathize with the subjects of the paper who don’t identify as victims and 2. I resent any implication that bullying is entirely the victims problem. Just because it is impossible to get rid of bullying (as others have discussed, it isn’t about ‘reasonable people disagreeing’, but base criminality) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continually experiment with new ways to try.

  8. I’m in favor of teaching kids techniques to reflect and deal with verbal intimidation, and to encourage them to report all incidents of bullying involving actual physical contact in a zero-tolerance framework. Most bullies I recall were emotional trainwrecks who were probably acting as conduits for the intimidation directed toward them by someone with power in their own lives. Bullying that flows down the age ladder, where older kids pick on younger kids who in turn pick on even younger kids, as well as bigger on smaller, can create an atmosphere of fear that undermines education itself. This puts it clearly in the schools’ interest to deal with effectively, through zero-tolerance policies as well as counseling the emotional trainwrecks themselves, who very possibly were taught bullying by being victims. But on the other hand kids also need to learn that there are winners and losers in all manner of competition in life, and it’s not wrong to use your talents, abilities, skills, knowledge, and physical attributes to advantage. I read in the UK workplace anti-bullying guidelines that being unfairly passed over for promotion can be bullying, which I’m sure can be true, but also recognize that often promotion is a contest with one or a few winners and many losers. So anyone on the receiving end of reports of bullying faces the sometimes-difficult task of differentiating between intimidation and fair competition. In school, I found the bloke who could always, always run the 800m five seconds faster than me intimidating on the track, but that doesn’t mean he was a bully even as he ground me into cinders, figuratively, every time we raced.

  9. I was bullied a few times in elementary and middle school. Nothing persistent, which I could understand would be very wearing on a person, but just a few brushes with the high testosterone delinquents. In elementary I just kind of submitted, but by middle school they were getting stronger and more aggressive, and I was beginning to understand how bullies tend to choose weak targets. There was one last incident where one of them got ahold of me in the locker room with everyone watching. I made the mental commitment to fight and to not stop until something was broken just before the ‘stare-down’ phase. I guess that was enough, after 20 seconds or so of stand-off in a very quiet locker room, he backed off and never gave me shit again.

    People get to where they are in a lot of different ways, but I remember that as a critical point in making me who I am. I didn’t have to fight, but they knew I would. I suppose the success of that strategy probably affects my attitudes about strength today.

  10. I wish academics didn’t write like that. It serves no purpose except to say that ‘I’ am better than ‘you’ because ‘you’ struggle to understand what ‘I’ just wrote. It’s a form of intellectual bullying. Geesh. Am I now participating in the ‘drama’? 

    Or should I say: 
    In an attempt to critique the ethnographic socio-political analysis of the term ‘bullying’ from within the hetero-normative networked dynamic (Boing Boing), the agent subverts the foundations of such critique by engaging in mundane interpersonal conflict. 

    If you got through all that, you should get a cookie. And I don’t really think Boing Boing is hetero-normative.

  11. Folks on this thread might be interested in some very effective anti-bullying work that is being done in schools, called Roots of Empathy. Described in this NYT article http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/08/fighting-bullying-with-babies/. It involves teaching kids emotional intelligence via interactions with a baby who is brought into the classroom. Apparently the program does really correlate with a reduction in bullying incidents at the schools where it’s been implemented.

  12. My goodness, gendered process…discourses…

    This is the worst sort of academy-speak.  It almost seems to be a parody.  

    You do not make yourself seem smart when you write like this.  It discredits your points by making it seem like you are just making things up.  

  13. This is a great article and op-ed. I’ve become interested in cyberbullying of late, among young people and adults. I don’t have solutions for bullying, but I definitely see that characterizing bullying as “drama” or “flamewars” or some other agentless interaction obscures the fact that there’s an aggressor and a victim and essentially gives the aggressor a free pass while denying support to the victim. I am looking for people who have been victims of bullying or other forms of abuse (drama) on the internet to interview for my blog, so I’d like to invite those reading and commenting here to contact me (cathshaffer-at-gmail-dot-com) if they have a story to share.

  14. “This is the worst sort of academy-speak.  It almost seems to be a parody.”

    So, your complaint is that people doing academic research and publishing in an academic forum are using the specialized language of academics?

    You should stop by the PubMed database and see how medical doctors and researcher just keep using fancy-dancy ‘medical terminologeez’ to talk about things that could be discussed in much plainer language. I mean why talk about “administering Cisplatin to retard the growth of ovarian carcinoma” when they could just write, “give ’em the medicine for their lady-problems”? I mean, it’s not like the analysis complex phenomena require specialized and nuanced language or anything.

    1. There is no excuse for deliberate obtuseness in any sort of technical writing.  A well written medical journal article (or engineering or social science) is readable by any intelligent person that is not in the field.  

      This academy-speak is merely an attempt to create jargon to make a subject appear more complex when it is not.

      1. “well written” is highly subjective and so is “intelligent person”;  could you please clarify? 

        Or, did you mean to say “should be readable”?

  15. I feel the title drama is even worse. In highschool I was bullied some but in general I was 6’00 and kinda large, plus I had a 4.0 GPA so kids made fun but weren’t ever really that bad. 

    When I reached college though I encountered ‘drama’. People completely socially ostracizing exes because they didn’t like how the breakup went, and if the person complained, party A would just say “oh they’re causing drama”. Even stuff that went as far as near-rape cause from alcohol just got slighted off as drama by the people in the group who had learned that, as long as they titled it drama, they could get away with all sorts of actions that were truly despicable. 

    It was really horrible looking back on it, the only way you could really get away was by completely cutting off the people who caused it in the first place. 

  16. Sending a lot more parents of bullies to jail would help deter parents from teaching their kids to bully. Parents use bullying to strike back at their rival parents to cover up the inferior traits of their own kids.
    “Mikey isn’t good at Math, better have him rough up the Math whiz to keep the bell curve down.” “Some uppity darkie moving into my white flight suburb? Send in Mikey to give the their little buck a swirlie.” “The Steins aren’t Catholic when the pews need a new coat of lacquer? Time to brush up on your Swastika spray painting, Mikey.” The teaching and tolerance of bullying is always rooted in financial and religious biases with the goal of terrorizing your “competition” into failure. “The Math whiz went Columbine? So sad..” The promising black kid with a love of science overdoses on Oxycontin? Well, you know what they say about those people…” “The retired Massad agent from next door cut off my balls an now I’m in the ‘shoe’ at Pelican Bay for hate crimes? Oops…”

    1. Sending a lot more parents of bullies to jail would help deter parents from teaching their kids to bully. 

      Wrong. Bullying persists because the exercise of violence is rewarded (cf. Rick Perry and the cheering for all of his executions at the debate). It’s a social problem, and none of the “solutions” people describe above allow for the possibility that someone is not capable (or interested) in “preparing to fight.” 

      The social attitude is that the victim should learn to be like the bully just enough to cause him/her to back off in fear of getting the treatment they’ve been inflicting. It’s clinically retarded logic.

      1. Clinically retarded or not, it’s worked for all life on earth for hundreds of millions of years.  Wasps have stingers for a reason.

          1. But they have the instinct to defend themselves. So his point is, instinct (which has been bred out of us) trumps brains, dude. 

          2. Actually, that’s a biased assertion. You could just as easily say that wasps only sting those that aren’t wasps, so we should embrace xenophobia. You can’t say that a sting derives from defense any more than you can say that the wasp is killing for food. Anthropomorphism doesn’t help here.

          3. We are not insects, though- we’re humans. The fight or flight instinct is there for a reason (trust it!), but we have higher cognitive functions than a wasp!

      2. Learning conflict resolution skills does not necessarily mean “preparing to fight.”  

        The issue requires both preventative measures and education.  Bullies need to be dealt with and either punished or put in therapy to deal with their aggression issues.  The bullied need to learn better ways to protect themselves against aggressive behavior, even if it’s as simple as ways to avoid the situations in the first place.

        Some of us figured out that puffing out our chest a little was the way to scare off most bullies.  Others turned to sarcasm, jokes, and other verbal deflections to defuse the situation.  Some needed counseling to build up their own self esteem and confidence so they weren’t as vulnerable.  

        If this sort of thing was part of a educational program, then the problem could be reduced somewhat, but as others said, even as adults it’ll never go away completely, and knowing how to deal with “drama” is a useful skill.

  17. Bullying is an attempt to stop the victim’s ability to gain access to social support.

    I was bullied in elementary, middle, and high school.  I tried to fight back sometimes but am very bad at fighting and it only made things worse (more humiliating) and I also didn’t feel good about it.  I survived because I had a pleasant and peaceful home life and because I am introverted.  I mostly don’t need to be around people to be happy.

    Bullying was successful in changing my behavior though.  I learned to focus on the joys of learning, which i could do alone.  As an adult I still avoid people but in general am happy because I  found a loving wonderful partner.  (This is hard to do if you are conditioned to avoid people). besides my home life I do not interact socially very often, and when I do it’s weird.

    I fear for people who need to be around others.  If bullying is successful and they loose any access to social support they will suffer far more than I ever did.

    Suicide from bullying is understandable when you imagine living your entire life in an hostile world with no access to social support.  There can seem to be no hope.

    I believe that bullying is built into the way our society works, hows schools operate, and how we define a persons value.  The world has to change before bullying ends.  A few laws will do nothing.

  18. Admittedly I never was the victim of the kind of relentless bullying so many describe.

    My testosterone surge emotional response is that fighting back would solve everything, in the same way I feel that breaking Bill O’Reilly’s wagging finger would best cut short his spittle-spraying bullying if one were his beleaguered guest.

    But really, what bully would meekly slink away in new-found respect for the mouse that roared?  Why wouldn’t the perceived humiliation would make the bully likely to come back with a weapon and a gang?

    1. Depends on if the bully has a weapon or a gang.  I grew up in a pretty peaceful area.  There was never any weapon violence at my school. 

      But to answer your question, the bully slinks away not because he respects the mouse, but because it’s not about the mouse.  He just starts picking on a different mouse, one that doesn’t roar.

      1. In my experience, that doesn’t work except in very specific circumstances. For example, in a lot of the bullying girls do, fighting back counts as losing, because it’s a reaction. There are some very nasty dominance games at play in bullying where both fighting back and showing one’s throat both result in the bull(ies) going for the jugular.

        1. ‘For example, in a lot of the bullying girls do, fighting back counts as losing, because it’s a reaction.’

          I can see that if the bullying is verbal, not physical. And, the gendering of types of bullying is not helpful or accurate. If someone touches or hits you and you react, you lose? I tried that- didn’t work. I lost, because I showed that I could be touched and I wouldn’t react. So, it continued.

          If you knock their ass out cold, it doesn’t count as losing- especially if it stops the bullying. It also sends a message to any other potential bullies.

      2. I’ve found bullies are frustrated individuals. I didn’t really grasp that meaning until I looked up the synonyms of frustration: 

        To Frustrate: TO- block, stop, block off, block up, bar, obstruct, impede, slow down, jam, close up, thwart, spoil, foil, cross, baffle, prevent, forestall, forbid, stop, hold back…..Complete misery. 

        I found it a lot easier to deal with bullies once I sent the message that I was not the one standing in their way and I would gladly move. Plus, I never knew, and most of us will NEVER know, what happens to these tortured souls at home. 

  19. I went through a lot of bullying in elementary and up to grade 9 or so.  One of them stopped when I broke his nose, others found different ways to get at me.  It didn’t help that my dad was teacher at the school – the angry gibbons would focus their attention on me as the soft target (I was big but gentle and not inclined to fight).  And involving my father would have been an invitation to much worse.

    I learned to deal with it, barely.  I kept my head down, found my own group of friends and was a typical angry disaffected youth of the 80s.  School was not an enjoyable experience for me, and I was happy to leave it behind.  I suspect my ongoing preference for small groups of friends that I trust was partly a result of that experience – I never had the experience of a large circle of friends.  And we still had the frickin drama, because we were teens.

    Now I have a 6 year old in grade one.  He experienced some emotional bullying in kindergarten (from a charismatic kid whose parents were going through a split).  My kid is in martial arts, even at six, and they have an excellent focus on bullyproofing.  Not fighting, but not being a soft target, and also protecting friends.  He is a friendly, social kid and I don’t want his personality to be shaped by assholes – which is the implication of the ‘I was bullied and I learned to deal with it’ narrative.

    1. Yes, I think martial arts is a great idea.  I grew up with “Just laugh along and they’ll become your friends” kind of advice, which clearly doesn’t work.  I think the martial arts program your son is in will help him a lot.  It still doesn’t solve the main problem though.  Bullies will simply move on to an easier target….  and there will always be an easier target.

      1. It does however, solve the main problem for his son, the ability to defend himself. Too many people are lost in the big picture, and think they have to try and live in it with their children. Not so, it’s not a 6 year old boys problem to worry about those things, its ours. This father has given his son the tools as a stopgap measure for when he’s not there. It’s called personal security and a sense of self-worth, an investment if you will.

        (I was raised in a religion that did not allow learning self defense, we were sitting ducks, the the bullies knew that too. What a screwed up way to advertise someones weakness. “See that 12 year old kid over there, the one who couldn’t celebrate Christmas with us, he’s NOT ALLOWED to fight back, let’s go have some fun!”)

        1. I’m in total agreement.  I wish I had learned self-defense myself. 

          I’m just saying that for every kid that does learn self-defense there are many more that are going to remain targets.

          Something bigger than a few laws or handful of kids learning to defend themselves needs to happen before the tendency towards bullying ends.

    2. Excellent view of the other young boy, you are setting realistic assessments of the situation by simply calling the young boy “a charismatic kid”. I highly commend you, sounds like you got a decent grasp on things since the 9th grade. I went to counseling the first chance I had, it helped a lot. 

  20. I grew up being bullied and beaten in school, year after year into high school. I didn’t develop coping skills, I developed self-hatred instead. And I find social situations incredibly stressful and difficult, but I don’t know how much of that is innate – I suspect finding eye contact painful and face-reading impossible is innate – and how much is the side-effect of all the bullying.

    1. Facebook really helped me through this, MOST of my bullies are miserable, the worst is in prison and one severely beaten by his own child and another disabled  after drinking and driving. A couple found religion and reached out to me, they live beautiful lives now. 

      I’m more in pain from not getting the support I needed then. There were and are, still adults in your life who didn’t defend you or at least, find you some level of peace. It really is strange, isn’t it, some parents will pick up and move to protect their child, and others simply say “kids will be kids, it is what it is”You find strength in your accomplishments…..number one accomplishment, your still alive. 

      Peace and Light, Love and Life. And dammit, start walking down the center of the sidewalk and look people in the eye, it’s empowering. If you don’t know how to do it, just watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lyu1KKwC74  (vevo, one ad)

    2. Yes, this. It took me YEARS to be able to even look another person in the eye. I got it from all sides, too- home, school, you name it. The self-hatred: check. The doubting of my own perceptions: check. Yes, I relate.

  21. People pooh-poohing any kind of adult intervention claim to be concerned with the lessons “learned” by the bullied… but not for what the bullies are learning. (Apparently learning and shaping only happen to the cowed?) A “Hands off” policy from adult authorities isn’t neutrality: it’s an affirmation of the bullies’ violence.

    Also, we’re talking about minors. They’re by law not supposed to be able to make their own decisions about sex and liquor, but violence…. that’s A-OK. Expose your penis in Spanish? Go right to juvee or “counseling”. Knock someone’s lights out? Get a wink and a nod.

  22. I completely disagree. 

    In the early 70’s, I was told by my grandfather “It’s none of your business what people are thinking about you.”

    These companies, like Formspring, make you want to know what people are thinking about you and encourage teens to fill this cesspool with what they think OR AGREE about you. It’s full of initiators (baby troll dolls) and dimwitted agreeable followers: “The head cheerleader said it, so it must be true!” The internet has increased the price of “your 2 cents” and made your opinions seem highly valuable. 

    I can’t WAIT for this generations politicians to start campaigning. “Mr. Politician, it seems that in 2011, there was a young man by the name of Jamey Rodemeyer that committed suicide based off of comments sent to him through a website….do you recognize this comment sent to him by you….”Dye Faggit Dye?”

    This poor boys parents should have blocked him access from this site, it’s disgusting. And just like every business owner knows, people make enough time to complain, but can’t seem to find the time to compliment. Just look at Netflix’s blog after the recent change, about 30 full grown adults slinging 6th grade insults  for every 1 positive comment.  

    I hate this place, it’s called a “net” for a reason….right?

    1. It took me years and years, and I still have a hard time doing it. Practice, practice with people you trust (hopefully you have some of those :3). If we lived closer, I would volunteer to let you look into my eyes… :”P

  23. I still would like this simple question answered…..Why and how are schoolchildren finding time to do all of this bullying; physical, verbal, cyber, whatever?

    1. I still would like this simple question answered…..Why and how are schoolchildren finding time to do all of this bullying; physical, verbal, cyber, whatever?

      Because there’s not enough money in the budget to do much besides babysitting them. My friend’s fourth grader spent the better part of a year being sent to the library to run self-education modules. Nobody was paying any attention to whether or not he went and did that.

      1. Wow. I can’t even fathom that. I was in 4th grade in 1984… I had an AWESOME teacher (who was flaming gay, everyone knew it, and that was just fine. He would have NEVER tolerated bullying in his classroom!). He was amazing… I know I was lucky, but it’s hard for me to comprehend how bad it is nowadays. :(

  24. I’m genuinely curious as to what teachers and other authority figures are supposed to do about bullying. I hope it’s not just “raise awareness”; kids and teachers alike are very much aware that bullying takes place. 

    In fact, if you were to ask an average high schooler what he or she felt was the major pressing social issue of our time, it would likely be “bullying.” Countless assemblies, motivational speakers, in-school cops, and classroom projects address this fuzzily-defined phenomenon. And yet everyone is terrified of getting specific. Pink Shirt Day began as an initiative to combat homophobia; by the time it reached our school, the message was against “bullying,” as administrators felt that homophobia was something that needed to be gradually addressed, that the kids would be turned off and wouldn’t want to participate if it had anything to do with The Gay. 

    The result is kids who are quick to shout “bullying” in any disagreement with their friends, but unwilling to accept the idea that jokingly calling someone a fag constitutes abuse. When issues (homophobia being the glaring one, but insert any category of prejudice or discrimination) are talked around rather than addressed head-on, kids who are actually victims of bullying don’t come to teachers or other authority figures for help. Real bullying, to them, looks like after-school specials and the smallest kid getting shoved in a locker. It’s not two teenage girls calling a third one a fat slut.

    I was bullied in grade school; the attempts of caring, well-intentioned adults to intervene were broad and took great care not to single my victimizers out. The result of asking for help? Getting bullied even more for being a snitch. At least by high school, kids are clever enough to bully each other out of the sight of teachers—on Facebook after school, or in the washrooms, or wherever. And the messages that we send them, that bullying looks a certain way, that there are clear lines between bullies, victims, and bystanders, ensure that kids will seldom turn to even the most trusted adult for help.

    1. How about expulsion for battery? The loudmouth parents of jocks probably won’t like it, but it would certainly be the mirror image of valorizing it.

  25. I said , “a lot of the bullying girls do” not “girl bullies” or “the way girls bully”. I’m not being a gender essentialist, here. But I am speaking to my own experience- which extends to my current job,  and as a way to explicitly discuss the types of bullying that aren’t physical, and thus are MUCH harder to address. I work for the Girl Scouts. And I can tell you, while not all the bullying I see (by the adults more than even just the girls) is completely verbal/social, physical bullying is so rare that I’ve only come across it a handful of times. So yes, I think it’s fair to discuss bullying among girls that takes non-physical forms, especially because it’s the bullying everyone seems happy to ignore. Can’t see it? Isn’t there.

     There are many cultural and socialized reasons for bullying among girls to tend towards the verbal/social. I’m not saying it’s innate. But it’s there. Hell, I had a long-time volunteer at a leader meeting spend the entire thing needling me in the hope of seeing me react, so that she could be top dog. I’ve had volunteers spreading rumors about another volunteer who didn’t fit in with their clique around the community, and doing everything they could to exclude her, isolate her, and make her feel like shit at every opportunity. I’ve had leaders who, because of some stupid business about a shared spouse, saw fit to bring the girls into it and had them picking on (not physically, of course- that would mean getting in trouble!) girls in another troop.

    My point was never, “ignore the bully, and they’ll go away”. It was just that it’s not always as easy as “punch them in the face, then they’ll leave you alone!” (not to mention that’s a good way to end up in prison.)

  26. I find it astonishing that people lump together such disparate behaviors as social exclusion, verbal harassment, and violent beatings together under the umbrella label “bullying”.   Certainly some of the motivations behind each may be the same in some cases, but everything else is different — the evidence, the effects on those “bullied”, and the criminality of the actions to start with.  I see no necessary reason to think that effective means for addressing one will do much, if anything for others.

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