And here’s where we run into another major component of bullying… attention. In a world of brands and marketing, there’s a sentiment that there is no such thing as bad attention. Countless teens are desperately seeking attention. And there’s nothing like “starting drama” to guarantee both attention and entertainment. So teens jump in, adding fuel to the flame because it’s fun. They know that it hurts, but it also feels good sometimes too. And this is what makes music videos like Eminem & Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie” resonate with both adults and teens. The drama is half the fun, even when it hurts like hell.
Combating bullying is not going to be easy, but it’s definitely not going to happen if we don’t dive deep in the mess that underpins it and surrounds it. Lectures by uncool old people like me aren’t going to make teens who are engaged in dramas think twice about what they’re doing. And, for that matter, using the term “bullying” is also not going to help at all either. We need interventions that focus on building empathy, identifying escalation, and techniques for stopping the cycles of abuse. We need to create environments where young people don’t get validated for negative attention and where they don’t see relationship drama as part of normal adult life. The issues here are systemic. And it’s great that the Internet is forcing us to think about them, but the Internet is not the problem here. It’s just one tool in an ongoing battle for attention, validation, and status. And unless we find effective ways of getting to the root of the problem, the Internet will just continue to be used to reinforce what is pervasive.
This excerpt is from the blog of danah boyd (apophenia), one of the leading experts on teens & social media. In this fascinating post, danah discusses teen’s views of bullying and makes some excellent points (I encourage you to read the entire post!). I agree completely when she writes (above) about systemic root causes of bullying. Kids see adults bullying all the time – in the home, schools, workplaces, in the media. This is not to impy that we should accept this behaviour and not address the problem when it occurs, however, adults need to model anti-bullying behaviour as well and not, as danah points out, validate these behaviours. Increasingly we see the Internet, and networks like Facebook, blamed for bullying, while this inappropriate use must be addressed, we can’t forget that it is the behaviour at fault, not the technology.
How can we best attack the problem of violent & abusive behaviour – at any age?