OBSERVATION: According to a 2010 study by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, half of all high school students admit they bullied someone in the past year, and nearly as many, 47 percent, say they were bullied, teased, or taunted in a way that seriously upset them in the past year. That’s an awful lot of kids who are inflicting and suffering serious emotional injuries, some so serious as to cause deep depression and even suicide.

Read the Josephson Institute’s 2010 study here.

At the root of all this misery is the willingness of our sons and daughters to say and do mean and awful things that humiliate, embarrass, intimidate, or degrade others. Most of the perpetrators of all this pain are not brutish thugs with severe self-esteem issues. Many are intelligent, highly confident teens good at hiding their cruel or careless conduct from their parents and teachers.If the saying “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never harm me” was ever true, it certainly is not so today. We need to be sure that every school child understands that insults, name calling, relentless teasing, and malicious gossip can inflict deep and enduring damage that often can’t be cured. You just can’t un-ring a bell.

Anti-bullying programs may have some effect, but a more promising solution is a multi-prong strategy that 1) creates a culture of kindness where mean and hurtful comments simply aren’t  acceptable and 2) helps young people develop inner resources to resist and reject hurtful messages.

 

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