Nelson Munz. His image may come to mind for many of us when we think about bullies.
(For those of you who don’t watch, or are too high-brow to admit to watching, The Simpsons, Nelson is the quintessential bully on the show, known for his mocking, doorbell-chime hah-hah laugh.)
That’s how many of us may think of bullies—as a social outcast waiting in the back hallway to extort lunch money from wimps. Sure, we’ve probably all known (and perhaps even handed over milk money to) a Nelson Munz or two, but the reality is that most bullies aren’t like him at all.
As I report in the September 2011 issue of Educational Leadership, most bullying is psychological, not physical. And it’s often popular kids who do the bullying—including girls.
Not only is the popular perception of bullying off the mark, so too, researchers note, are our common responses to it. Often, we tend to focus on the victims, encouraging them to stick up for themselves or find adults to help.
But that appears to be the exact wrong approach—and a key reason that so many anti-bullying programs are ineffective. Rather than seeing bullying as a psychological aberrance, we must see and treat it as a natural social phenomenon. To combat bullying, adults enlist the support of the entire school community, including teachers, parents, and student bystanders, who witness an estimated 85 percent of bullying cases, to create a school culture in which bullying is no longer socially beneficial, but rather socially unacceptable.
To learn more about current research on bullying, read the entire article here.