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What You Don’t Know About Peers and Bullying!

Group of teen girls in a fight.

What do you think of when you imagine a bully?

Usually it’s a kid who’s an outcast. Nobody likes them. They’re either a loner or they hang out with other bullies. They bully either because they don’t know how to control themselves or because they want to gain social status.

That’s definitely one kind of bully, but there’s also a second who’s more subtle and more dangerous.

These are “socially connected” bullies. They’re popular, socially skilled, and confident. These bullies are goal oriented and proactive in their actions.

One of the reports commissioned by President Obama’s bullying summit speaks about this…

Then there are bullies whose social worlds are networked and integrated — these children don’t lack for peer social support. Socially connected bullies are more evenly split between boys and girls. They have a variety of friends, some bullies but others not, and strengths such as social skills, athleticism, or physical attractiveness.

Socially connected bullies tend to be proactive and goal-directed in their aggression. They have lots of experience with peers, perhaps as far back as the day-care years. Some bullies incorporate pro-social strategies into their behavioral repertoire, for example reconciling with their targets after conflict or becoming less aggressive once they have established a clear dominance relationship.

These bullies are the polar opposite of the stereotype. They have extremely strong social skills and put them to use for personal gain. Unlike the social outcast, the socially connected bully flies under the radar.

This is Where the Role of
Peers is Radically Underestimated.

A socially connected bully’s strength comes from their network. Their fellow students enable them by either remaining silent or rallying behind them.

It’s easy to tell kids to “not be a silent bystander”, but it’s bigger than that. When the bully’s a social outcast it’s easier to take a stand. Nobody likes them anyway. There’s not as much risk.

When standing against a socially connected bully you risk becoming an outcast yourself. There’s consequences. Suddenly taking a stand has a price tag.

That’s the thing we need to be aware of. That the kids who take a stand are going to pay a price. For what? Well… I think the report sums it up nicely…

One good friend can make a crucial difference to children who are harassed. Victims who are friends with a nonvictimized peer are less likely to internalize problems as a result of the victimization — for example, being sad, depressed, or anxious.

In our anti-bullying school assembly we stress how important it is to make friends with people getting bullied. It makes all the difference in the world…

By understanding the difference between these two types of bullies, we’re better equipped to help our students take a stand!

Works Cited

Rodkin, Philip C. “Bullying — And The Power Of Peers.” Educational Leadership 69.1
(2011): 10-16. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Feb. 2012.

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