Most teens will experience bullying at some point during high school. Bullying isn’t always the overt name calling. There are several types of bullying that can have a negative impact on a girl’s well-being and self-esteem. It easily can affect the victim, and result in feeling depressed, anxious, or isolated.
According to the “Journal of the American Medical Association,” 10 percent of students report peer victimization or bullied multiple times every week. Understanding and defining what bullying looks like is important, not just for girls but also for parents and teachers.
Through the support of ‘Secret Mean Stinks’ via a P&G grant, leading researchers in peer bullying and victimization at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center created the “Girls Guide to End Bullying” curriculum, a web-based interactive curriculum, which is the first model with evidence to decrease bullying. The curriculum is designed to be easily used by individual students or by teachers, and parents with clear actions on identifying and combating bullying. On the website, the guide is organized in five types of bullying to paint a clearer picture.
- Hitting, kicking, or pushing someone or tripping someone.
- Making threats or even taking or destroying another girl’s belongings.
- Teasing someone, name calling.
- Teasing someone, putting someone down, or name calling.
- Inappropriate sexual comments, rumors, or jokes.
- Touching someone or grabbing.
- Ignoring a person and not talking them.
- Lies or rumors.
- When a person is made to do something they don’t want to do.
- Can occur through E-mail, text messages, social networking sites, i.e., Facebook, and instant messaging.
Ryan Adams, a developmental psychologist and assistant professor of pediatrics for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center discusses the anti-bullying campaign and the “Girls Guide to End Bullying” curriculum.
How did you get involved?
Secret was already involved with the Mean Stinks campaign, but I was contacted by that group after they saw how big it was and how important it was to girls.
Who is the curriculum targeted toward?
The curriculum is targeted for high school girls. There are some middle schools who have asked if they can be a part of this project, but that’s an issue parents and teachers [have] to decide, whether the girls can handle issues sexual in nature such as body image or relationships.
Is it available state wide?
It’s available universe wide to anyone who can go to the Internet and check out the website.
Working as a developmental psychologist and also working at a hospital, do you see that bullying correlates to any developmental delays or triggers?
The research is not that sophisticated in those terms. Research does show that early bullying in late childhood/early adolescence leads to internalizing problems later in life like depression and anxiety, and suicide attempts. The research on developmental delays isn’t as clear cut. The tricky part is that it goes both ways because the kids who have these delays and these problems are sometimes more likely to be targeted. It takes pretty sophisticated research design to tease apart what’s driving what. The short answer is that we don’t know a lot.
Are there differences in the bullying experiences of girls vs boys?
The rates with girls seem to increasing. We also know that girls do different kinds of bullying [such as rumors] vs. boys. Boys and girls both [receive verbal] bulling, but girls bullying is usually more sexual. I get principals and teachers saying that this is kind of new to them, and that they have to deal with more.
Please explain the curriculum and how others can implement it into their classrooms
We have a manual for teachers and parents on our website, the manual can provide an outline of a specific way of using the website with daughters or students. The other part is [providing] information and advice on how to deal with this issue. What makes our curriculum stand out is that we try to give as much possible information that’s not overwhelming, but [providing] lots of different options.
Will there be a boy’s curriculum?
We’re [focusing] on the current curriculum. The issue for boys is not that it’s not important; it’s just that the field has [somewhat] addressed a lot of those issues. If we decided to go in that direction it would probably target a specific group, such as kids with autism or obese kids.
Why has bullying become so widespread, as opposed to 15 years ago?
Certain types of bulling for girls have increased in physical and electronic forms because there wasn’t the possibility in the past. There might be some increase [because of] societal norms. In the past, it just was not appropriate. Societal norms aren’t as punishing. What we know about bullying and peer victimization is that they do it for social rewards. One way that we reduce bullying is work on bystanders, not reinforcing and laughing. If your peer group is more acceptable of behaviors you’re less likely to be punished. I don’t know if there has been a huge increase across a wide spectrum, but that we have become more aware and our attitudes are more serious than in the past. Ten to 15 years ago people would just say “oh it’s just kids being kids!”
Please explain some of the different types of bullying?
Bullying falls under the type of peer victimization, which means that there’s a power differential between two individuals. Someone can have more physical or social power. Peer victimization is a broader term and fits more behaviors. In general it means the intent to hurt someone or someone tried to hurt you. Someone who may not have as much power over you, but the person can still call you names and cause problems.
There’s relational aggression, which is excluding someone from a group. There’s also rumors, and physical victimization. There’s an increase in victimization among girls and also electronic victimization, which can involve text, pictures, Facebook, and Twitter.
[Many] girls see the behaviors but don’t define it as bullying. A part of the curriculum is [to show] what peer victimization looks like.
Who do girls generally tell if they’re being bullied?
There more likely to tell a friend than a teacher. It comes down to who the girl trust. Sometimes it’s a mom, sometimes it’s a friend. The main thing is getting them to talk to someone. The curriculum also [explores] how to be a friend of someone who gets bullied and [the best] approach.
To learn more about the Secret Mean Stinks Anti-bullying curriculum visit the website.
* Nansel, T.R., Overpeck, M., Pilla, R.S., Ruan, W.J., Simons-Morton, B., & Scheidt, P (2001) Bullying behaviors among U.S. youth: Prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. Journal of the American Medical Association, 285, 2094-2100.