You Can Be Anti-Bullying and Still Not Buy Into New Bullying “Crisis”

Hi Folks! I read this Wall Street Journal article  with gratitude and a little rage. It’s called, “Stop Panicking about Bullies: Childhood is safer than every before, but today’s parents need  need to worry about something.”

My gratitude comes from the fact the author, Nick Gillespie, bothers to figure out if we are really in the midst of a bullying crisis. Rage because it seems we are not — and yet here we are, once again, fearing for our children as if they are in danger like never before. Same way we newly fear for our children staying home alone, or walking to school, or doing anything independently. We jump directly to the worst case scenarios and act as if they are happening all the time — increasing, in fact, in number and seriousness — whereupon our terrified society demands new laws, restrictions, handwringing and helicoptering.

Like Gillespie, I am appalled by true bullying and in favor of a society that does not tolerate it. Fortunately, that’s the era we are living in. Bullying is less common today, and less tolerated when it rears its ugly head. Gillespie has the hard numbers, like these:

Despite the rare and tragic cases that rightly command our attention and outrage, the data show that things are, in fact, getting better for kids. When it comes to school violence, the numbers are particularly encouraging. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 1995 and 2009, the percentage of students who reported “being afraid of attack or harm at school” declined to 4% from 12%. Over the same period, the victimization rate per 1,000 students declined fivefold.

No one is shrugging off the real crime of bullying. But to pretend there’s an epidemic when in fact things are getting better is to both over-react AND sell our kids short. And to lump together unbearable harassment with minor teasing is just a mistake, the same way it is wrong to lump together runaways with kids who are abducted, as if they have experienced the same trauma. (And yet, we do exactly that — the media talk about “missing children,” without bothering to explain that a very small percentage of them were taken by strangers — and it ends up coloring our whole idea of modern day childhood.)

Let me say this again before anyone reminds me that bullying is bad: Bullying IS bad. But so is bullying the public into believing this generation of children is more endangered, more vulnerable and more in need of constant supervision than any generation before it. — L.