Dr. Dawg

What to do about bullying

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Amanda RIP.jpg

A recent teen suicide, one of many, demonstrates how lethal the practice of bullying can be. The stories in today’s Globe & Mail are heart-rending—and anger-making.

The bullies are literally getting away with murder.

The media are full of experts, as usual, talking about various forms of intervention, on-site anti-bullying efforts, campaigns, support groups, criminal charges, you name it. But none of this appears to be working.

I would propose a clear alternative: naming and shaming.

The schoolyard is only a fragment of the wider society, but to kids it seems a world apart. Proven bullies need to be publicly named in their communities. General social disapproval is a far more powerful deterrent than well-meaning feel-good anti-bullying campaigns, which the bullies themselves take as a joke, even as encouragement. After all, this unprecedented social recognition of their squalid little efforts endows them with an on-going sense of importance and power.

The Child Offenders Act protects the identity of minors before the courts. But nothing prevents the publication and wide circulation of the identity of a teen-age bully.

The social media have ramped up the effects of bullying to an intolerable degree. With all the tech at our disposal, it shouldn’t be impossible to sleuth out the names of the cowardly anonymous trolls who drive kids to suicide. Get their real-world identities. Put them up in lights.

I would go even further, and name their do-nothing parents or guardians as well.

I’m not advocating vigilantism here, nor the bizarrely stupid notion of bullying the bullies. There is a clear distinction to be made between wanton acts of cruelty on the one hand, and community disapproval on the other. In fact, I don’t even think that bullies should necessarily be suspended or expelled from school, as many advocate, unless specific acts warrant it. Leave them to marinate in the disapproval of their fellows, reinforced by the community at large. Depriving them of education is completely wide of the mark.

Instead, let’s leverage all of the current angst and do something practical and workable. The solution to bullying is simple: strip the bullies of their social capital. It takes a village to raise a child, and to shame a bully. Let’s get on with it.

Comments welcome.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on October 13, 2012 12:24 PM.

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