An Interview with Guest Editors Shelly Hymel, Ph.D. and Susan Swearer, Ph.D.
Bullying is an ever-present problem in the lives of school kids. There is not a day that goes by where we don't hear from parents about a cruel bullying story - the 1st Grade Boy trapped in the Boys Bathroom, the 3rd Grade girl who is excluded from her former friends during every recess, the 5th Grade Boy who came home with a sign taped to his back that read "call me weirdo," or the 8th Grade girl who was the victim of an untrue rumor that she had sex. This could be your child-one out of three students are bullied every year. Parents of bystanders, children who bully, and victims all must take a proactive stand against these statistics by getting involved in their school and in their community.
The movement to dispel bullying has already begun. Parents teach their children tolerance and try to provide a stable, secure home environment; teachers and school administrators work to put policies in place to keep bullying out of their schools; top scholars focus research on the root causes of this behavior.
And yet there is a disconnect. Parents, administrators, and academics rarely have the opportunity for a roundtable discussion. Parents know what goes on in their homes, but less about what goes on in the schools, and even less about the groundbreaking research being done at colleges and universities all over the world. Our hope at Education.com is that this Special Edition will provide some insight into what can be done to combat the destructive behaviors and conditions that cause bullying. Thus, we've partnered with the American Association of School Administrators in hopes of reaching as many parents as we can with this quick guide. If you have further comments or questions about how to combat bullying, please write to us.
Guest editors Shelley Hymel, Ph.D. (Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, and Special Education at The University of British Columbia) and Susan Swearer, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, Licensed Psychologist, and Co-Director of the Nebraska Internship Consortium in Professional Psychology) took some time to answer a few questions about bullying and Education.com's Special Edition on this topic.
What drew you to working on our Special Edition on Bullying?
Parents have no access to a lot of this information. Researchers from all over the world are studying and examining this problem, but parents never see the end result. This is an opportunity to bring this important work to the people.
I think that Education.com's special edition on bullying is a perfect venue for translating research into practice. We know a lot about bullying behaviors from the excellent researchers in this field. However, most of these researchers publish their research in academic journals that the lay public typically doesn't read. Therefore, this special edition is a wonderful opportunity to "spread the word" about what we know about bullying and victimization to the public.
What is the #1 fact that parents need to know about bullying?
I'll give you two: 1) Bullying takes many forms and is done by many types of people. 2) There is no one solution to the problem of bullying; there are too many factors and causes in play.
Bullying is a complicated social relationship problem that occurs in varying degrees in every school. It's important to realize that bullying is a problem that affects as many as 75% of students at some point during their school careers.
What are some common myths surrounding bullying?
That there is one type of bullying. There is a stereotype of the big, socially inept brute pounding on the skinny little weakling. In reality bullying takes a myriad different forms and kids from many different walks of like engage in this type of behavior. Over half the kids who bully are high status popular kids. Bullying is pervasive in our children's culture. The vast majority of our kids are doing it.
Bullying only occurs between a "bully" and a "victim." We know that many students involved in bullying function in multiple roles and can switch between different roles (i.e., bully, bully-victim, victim, and bystander). It is not a dyadic problem between two people. Often, multiple people are involved.
Can you tell us about some of the people you have gathered to contribute to our Special Edition?
We have tried to get articles from the top scholars in the field from around the world: Christina Salmivalli in Finland; Peter Smith in England; Ken Rigby in Australia; Ersilia Menesini in Italy, just to name a few. We're working with the top minds in the study of bullying right now; it's very exciting.
We have requested articles from top researchers across the world who study bullying and peer victimization. This is a very exciting opportunity to garner research results from the "best and the brightest" and to bring these results to a large audience.
Our Special Edition promises to be informative, enlightening, and a definite step in the right direction to understanding what causes these destructive behaviors. So please join Education.com and our illustrious guest editors as we work together to spread the word about bullying.