Yesterday, Dr. Raffalli described the connection between smart technology and cyber bullying. Today, he looks at how adults can work with both the victim and bully to help stop the cycle.
By: Peter C. Raffalli, MD, FAAP
But what of the bully? Pediatricians will encounter both bully and victim in their practices. Bullies have been shown to have a significantly increased risk for both psychological and legal problems later in life (Englander, 2013; Olweus, 1993; Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simmons-Morton, Scheidt, 2001; Turcotte-Bennedict, 2015; Radliff, Wheaton, Robinson, Morris, 2012). Both victim and bully are developing children/teens and a doctor’s approach should be more therapeutic than punitive. In other words, we want to help the bully; parents will look to the pediatrician for guidance when their child is accused of bullying behavior. In order to help, a physician must first understand why a child might decide to bully. It is interesting to note that many bullies do not realize that what they are doing actually qualifies as bullying. Often they are upset or angry and feel that they are retaliating for an annoyance or even frank injustice done to them. They may, for example, have difficulty understanding that a high functioning autistic child’s disregard for personal space or other problems with self-regulation isn’t meant as an intrusion (Raffalli, 2015; Sania, Jaffey, Bowes, 2012; Sterzing, Shattuck, Navendorf, Wagner, Cooper, 2012). Sometimes, bullying starts as what is perceived as a joke by the bully, not realizing the damage that that joke is doing emotionally to the recipient. Child rearing issues, including lack of warmth and support at home and/or overly permissive parenting with regard to a child’s aggressive behavior, have been shown to be associated with risk for development of bullying behavior in children (Olweus, 1993).
It must be remembered that, when the definition of bullying is met, bullying is abuse of a child or teen, and abuse is never the victim’s fault. There will often be attempts by the bully or even the school to blame the victim. Bullies will often claim that the victim “deserves it.” It is not uncommon for a school official to tell the parent of a bullying victim that the child is a target because of his/her shortcomings. The mother of an ADHD child who is being bullied might, for example, be told by the principal, “Well, you know, he is annoying.” This is unacceptable and points to the continued need for education of all school staff, not only in bullying prevention, detection and intervention, but also to some degree in victimology, at least as it applies to pediatric peer victimization.
By: Peter C. Raffalli, MD, FAAP
In 1972, Lou Reed released his album Transformer, the fifth track of which was the debut of the song Take a Walk on the Wild Side, one of, if not the most iconic of Reed’s immense catalogue of work. It was raw and unconventional, a departure from the style and prosody of the rock that had come before. Young people, particularly teens, are attracted to the raw and unconventional. It fulfills a need in them for departure from the dependent years of their childhood — when their parents’ experiences and values dominated — toward something all their own. Of course, an element of danger is usually considered necessary on the part of the teen. Rock and roll and the culture that came with it would transform not only music, but generations of young people through the sixties, seventies and eighties.
With the inception of the internet, we humans have created another dimension — one in which some people dwell without break for extended periods of time. And, like the streets and scenes that Reed described on his jaunt through New York City in the early seventies, there are places in the internet where our teens travel secretively that certainly contain the same themes of sex, gender identity, race, drugs, violence and coercion conjured in Take a Walk on the Wild Side. If we who care and advocate for children are to help our patients and their parents navigate this brave new world, we too need to take a walk there if we are going to have any hope of relating to what they are going through. A review of the various ways the internet and smart technology has impacted our kids will be presented in the paragraphs that follow.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, one out of every four students reports being bullied during the school year. Out of that quarter, though, only 36 percent actually report their ordeal to an adult. While bullying incidents may seem brief or like “kids being kids”, students who are bullied are much more likely to experience mental health issues than their peers. To help combat this serious problem, children’s hospitals and other partner organizations are providing a myriad of resources for parents, teachers and teens.