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bullies « Previous | |Next »
December 13, 2008

Clarencegirl observes that the Australian Youth Forum doesn't appear to be generating much youthful enthusiasm. Who knew it was even there? On the topic of bullying, 40 comments and 181 votes is nothing, and worse, as Clarencegirl points out, most of the comments appear to be from adults.

Whether young people would participate if they knew it was there is a bit doubtful, but if they're not responding on the issue of bullying, they definitely don't know about the site. I don't know of a better way to engage them on the net, but you're not going to find too many teenagers prepared to regularly check a government website. Maybe some kind of mass MySpace action. People under 18 generally don't do Facebook.

They're out there talking about it on the net, just not at a central site. This is part of a MySpace blog entry by a 15 year old (call him Hobjobble) reproduced with permission:

What does "cool" exactly mean these days? Most people can just say "school sucks" or go out and get drunk or stoned and all of a sudden they feel bigger than the people that don't do those things and they tend to bully them for it. I don't know how anyone else sees that but I find it extremely stupid. The younger people of this generation have somehow managed to find a way to make everything harder for themselves and it's all because of this word "cool" which basically means nothing.

And why can't anyone just be themselves and feel accepted by others as a friend? I myself have lost many friends to other people just because they feel that what they are doing and what they like doing isn't good enough to be accepted by the more popular people around them. Even just the clothes people wear changes how people see them and judge them as a person.

A lot of people that were around me while I was still in school were called "emo" because we prefered listening to a different style of music and didn't look like everyone else did. I found it quite annoying and so did my friends. There's no reason to pick on people just because they choose to like something you don't like.

Another thing people tend to do a lot is to only be friends with people from certain countries, culture, skin colour etc. I find this quite annoying. Why can't everyone just accept people for how they look?

I know basically no one on my myspace friends list will read this but I don't really care what you all think, I'll do what I want and act how I want, not how anyone else wants me to act. And to be honest... Really I only have one friend that I actually like because he's not dumb enough to try be like any one else and most people hate him for it.

Bullying is a hard thing to pin down. We imagine the stereotypical school bully belting up the weaker kids behind the sports shed, but it's way more complex. At a conference a couple of weeks ago a network researcher presented a network map of bullying relationships at three schools that doesn't fit the stereotypical image. It looked like the result of a dangerously inebriated, mass spider party.

The only easy part is that everyone can identify bullies, and that kids are well aware that bullying includes ostracism. Bullies bully one another. Weaker kids bully one another. Non-bullies will bully one another if they think popular kids will approve. Some popular kids bully, some don't. Bullies often see themselves as victims, rather than perpetrators of bullying.

Helen Skepticlawyer recently posted a typically beautiful entry which illustrates the systemic nature of the problem. She wasn't popular:

My lack of girly-vision meant that I seldom made relationship connections, and tended to view girls and their obsessing over boys with ill-concealed contempt.

That alone is enough to isolate a person. But she did have someone onside at school:

One teacher was kind of in my corner. I think she was a feminist, but saying that now involves a major exercise in looking through the retrospectoscope. She didn’t ‘get’ me, but then no-one did, so we were square.

One teacher who was eventually sacked for being different. Hobjobble had one friend, which entailed choosing ostracism for being different.

In questions at the network presentation I asked whether the kids had been allowed to nominate teachers as bullies, which resulted in much chortling. It's funny, but it's not funny. A school is a system, not just a bunch of kids. So it's interesting that the Minister for Youth writes:

What is most concerning about bullying is that it’s often done on the sly and out of sight of teachers or other adults.

That's kind of like saying the walls are often there on the sly and out of sight of the panopticon.

| Posted by Lyn at 7:18 AM |