According to a new Times piece by Dr. Perri Klaas, pediatricians are beginning to view bullying as a health issue, and working with schools to put a stop to it.
For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics's official statement on youth violence — coming out next month — will include a section on bullying. The section includes recommendations for schools based on the research of Norwegian psychologist Dan Olweus, who, interestingly enough, focuses not on bullies or victims but on bystanders. "Olweus's genius," says statement author Robert Sege, "is that he manages to turn the school situation around so the other kids realize that the bully is someone who has a problem managing his or her behavior, and the victim is someone they can protect." Other recommendations include reorganizing the school layout or paying more attention to places — like an "out-of-sight corner" — where bullying can easily flourish.
The new statement comes after a spate of studies showing that bullies, as well as victims, face psychological risks. One study found that both bullies and the bullied were more likely to have suicidal thoughts. Another found that some bullies — specifically those with a condition called conduct disorder — actually enjoyed watching other kids get hurt. And of course, the unique risks of cyberbullying, especially in the wake of Megan Meier's suicide, have been well-documented.
The way we understand bullying has changed, and it's probably going to change even more. [...] But anyone working with children needs to start from the idea that bullying has long-term consequences and that it is preventable.
Nipping schoolyard bullying in the bud — before it can become a lifelong problem — is an important goal, and Klaas's story resonates more than the Times's recent pieces on female workplace bullying. Rather than, as Dodai says, "running panicky stories about ladies misbehaving at the office," let's focus on kids harming other kids and what doctors, parents, and schools can do about it.
At Last, Facing Down Bullies (and Their Enablers) [New York Times]
With Bullying, Suicide Risk for Victims and Tormentors [New York Times]