Opinion: Let’s not create a cyber bullying panic

Recent stories in the press about teenage cyber bullying and real-world bullying, such as the incidents that led 15-year-old Phoebe Prince and 17-year-old Alexis Pilkington to commit suicide, are “sickening,” writes CNET blogger Larry Magid—but cases like these are contributing to a level of panic that might not be justified. “We need to put this issue into some perspective,” Magid writes. “Yes, we should be concerned, but there is no cause for panic. As prominent as it is, bullying and cyber bullying are not the norm. … Depending on what study you read, anywhere from 15 percent to 30 percent of teens say they have experienced some type of bullying or harassment from their peers. And when it comes to bullying in general, the trend is moving in the right direction. Rather than an epidemic, bullying is actually on the decline.” He adds: “It’s worth pointing out that about 80 percent of teens say they have not been cyber bullied, while 90 percent of teens say they haven’t cyber bullied other teens. Posing the issue in the positive is not just a silly math trick—it’s actually a strategy that can help reduce bullying, or at least marginalize those who engage in it.” If kids think bullying is common, or “normal,” he explained, they are more likely to engage in the behavior.  “A better strategy,” he writes, “is to try to convince young people that bullying is not only wrong and unacceptable but is abnormal behavior, practiced by a small group of outliers. Taking it a step further, how can we marginalize bullies so that they—not their victims—are seen as losers, and how can we enlist young people themselves to stand up against bullying when they see it or hear about it?”

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