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Bullying: Whose fault is it and who should stop it- Parents or Schools?

The countless hours wasted debating these questions that could be better spent with the children this debate is about, this is what’s prompting this blog.

To begin with, all of the debate about whether we should blame the child or adolescent who “came out”, who allowed a nude picture to be taken (or took it) of themself, who sexted a picture, who aired an argument on facebook or other social media, or . . . . . . . is all sort of pointless.

The fact of the matter is, they’re children and adolescents, NOT ADULTS. They think and act like children and adolescents. Current research on brain development tells us that the frontal lobe of the brain (the part responsible for judgment and reasoning) surges in growth at about age 11 and isn’t done until about age 24. So, when we ask a youth why they ride a skate board down a railing without a helmet, no matter what they say, the answer is the same as to why someone would send their nude pictures through the phone or over the internet. They have not yet developed the judgment and reasoning to know and understand that it may be unsafe for them.

Our job as adults is to keep them as safe as possible. This doesn’t mean that they will never get hurt, but we must do everything in our power to protect them. Which adults are responsible to protect them? ALL OF US! It’s shameful that this is even a debate. The quote, “It takes a village”, has never been more true. It’s not that the kids are changing, the technology and adult response has. Thinking about movies like “The Outsiders”, bullying has always existed in some way. However, youth can no longer escape it. The most effective response we’ve seen is complete climate change in schools which includes involved parents. Schools and parents must team together. This is one of the core component of the programs we develop with schools.

Parents need to know that children and adolescents are not safe just because they are home. If they have access to the internet (on cell phones or computers), unsupervised, they are as much at risk as if they were hanging out outside the home. Children who isolate are are greater risk for self injurious behavior and suicide. Talk to your children and adolescents and more importantly, LISTEN. Long car rides are often the best place to get them to talk.

Schools need to take the issue of bullying seriously. Stop thinking of it as simply meeting a criteria or another legislative overreaching demand. Creating an atmosphere of safety and zero tolerance, where bullying is simply understood as unacceptable, is critical to the long lasting change and ensuring youth security and well being. Assemblies with staff will not accomplish this. It’s about culture change.

Let’s work together to keep children and adolescents safe this school year!

Debbie Mann

Rob Mann, LCSW

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