Are we doing ourselves, and our children a disservice by labeling every childhood conflict as “bullying”?
In a recent Op-Ed post on The New York Times, Emily Bazelon argues that we are overusing the term “bullying,” and that there is very real confusion about what the correct definition of bullying even is. According to Bazelon, both of these problems serve to reduce the words impact when it is actually used correctly, and also that, “All the misdiagnosis of bullying is making the real but limited problem seem impossible to solve.” She says,
… [W]e know that “bullying” isn’t the same as garden-variety teasing or a two-way conflict. The word is being overused — expanding, accordionlike, to encompass both appalling violence or harassment and a few mean words. State laws don’t help: a wave of recent anti-bullying legislation includes at least 10 different definitions, sowing confusion among parents and educators.
Bullying is a particular form of harmful aggression, linked to real psychological damage, both short and long term. There are concrete strategies that can succeed in addressing it — and they all begin with shifting the social norm so that bullying moves from being shrugged off to being treated as unacceptable. But we can’t do that if we believe, and tell our children, that it’s everywhere.
The definition of bullying adopted by psychologists is physical or verbal abuse, repeated over time, and involving a power imbalance. In other words, it’s about one person with more social status lording it over another person, over and over again, to make him miserable.
But when every bad thing that happens to children gets called bullying, we end up with misleading narratives that obscure other distinct forms of harm.
Do you agree?
Are we overusing the term “bullying”? If so, do you think the overuse has the potential to desensitize society to genuine instances of bullying?
Do you think that by calling “every bad thing that happens” to a child bullying, we are creating a problem that is impossible to solve?
Read the full article here.