Cameron Conaway lists five reasons bullying is on the rise, as well as concrete methods of combatting this increase.
“Bullying is a complex issue” has become a clichéd phrase without substance. Politicians sling it around to sound knowledgeable and celebrities use it to sound in touch with reality. It is complex, but it’s an issue that will not change unless we move away from sound bites and move into a national conversation about why.
(1) Technology. Often when technology is brought up in regards to bullying the conversation is about how it allows kids to bully in new ways. This is true. However, while tech has enabled us to have global virtual connections, it has degraded the quality of local human connections. This doesn’t just mean our children are nervous in face-to-face encounters and more comfortable communicating on Facebook, it means their faculties for empathy and compassion is weakening. When students are unable to relate to each other they are more apt to mistreat each other.
(2) Physical Education. “Crisis” is another term thrown around loosely these days, but it could certainly apply to the physical health of today’s youth. In an attempt to keep up with academic powerhouses like China, we’ve adopted an ideology that puts far too much emphasis on classes other than physical education. Physical Education is not simply playing dodgeball. Though exercise and play are important for children in terms of regulating hormone production and even fostering strong minds, it’s essential that we also educate today’s youth on why exercise is important. Exercise makes kids smarter, and I’d argue that it also makes them more tolerant of others
(3) Nutrition. I believe this is an important enough issue to be given it’s own space. We’ve spent billions to create the best chemically-configured oils for the health of our automobiles. Yet when it comes to the nutrition of our children, we are still just feeding them the cheapest out there. Much of it is fried, reconstituted junk. We’ve saturated our children’s taste buds with so many artificial sweetenings that even naturally-sweet fruits and vegetables no longer taste sweet to them. A healthy diet with real foods can help kids better handle stress, sleep deeper and think more clearly. And a healthy body composition increases confidence and bullying often festers because of a lack thereof.
(4) The Educational System. Despite the talk to change things, most schools still have a teach-to-the-test system in place for a large part of the year. And many schools still reward teachers based not on their ability to develop a child’s creativity and true educational skillset, but based on standardized test scores. I’ve witnessed first-hand how this can suck the life out of learning and make school a nightmare for students. Where there’s a classroom of 30 miserable students there’s a breeding ground for bullying. To tie in with #1, schools need to compensate by creating more activities that teach empathy. This could be something as simple as a writing lesson where they free-write from the perspective of a character in a painting.
(5) Parenting. Another cliché thrown around is how education “begins in the home.” Yes, it does. But there’s never talk about what that really means or how this crucial step can be improved. These days, parents simply cannot pop out a kid and expect to learn everything on the fly. There are some tools like creating teachable moments, talking about difficult issues, handling inter/intra personal stressors, etc., that could significantly help how a parent raises their children. No, kids don’t come with instructional manuals, but there are plenty of available tools out there that can help parents be better parents. To come back to the car metaphor, we have to take a driving test before we get on the road. Bad parenting creates bullying. Good parenting prevents bullying.
This article only scratches the surface. Not only are there other factors involved in the complex issue of bullying, but even the five I’ve mentioned here could be significantly expanded into articles (even books) unto themselves. It’s not enough to be emotionally crushed when we hear on the news of a bullied student committing suicide. We must act. And before we can act we must understand.