Is Modern Bullying Different Than in the Past?

The issue of bullying at school is getting nationwide attention after the suicides of several students last week. One case was in the Houston area. Is bullying really on the rise or is technology just making it easier to do? How should the cases be handled? Bill Stamps looks at those questions.
My Bodyguard movie posterAs long as there have been humans, there have been people who’ve picked on others. Bullying on school campus is nothing new either. This is a clip from a 1980’s movie titled My Bodyguard.

(Clip from the movie "My Bodyguard").

In the movie, the student that was picked on hires a bodyguard to go to school with him and ward off the school bully, played by Matt Dillon.

But the way students can bully is different today than in the past. Taking someone’s lunch money is a lot different than posting cruel pictures of a student on the internet. Brene Brown is professor of social work at the University of Houston.

"You know, if I was bullied 30 years ago in school, it would not have been broadcasted out to a million people on Facebook or put up on Twitter. So the social media piece is new. The privacy piece is new. So instead of it being an isolated event in your life, it feels like it’s out of control."

It appears the pain or embarrassment has been too great, causing some students to take their lives recently. Brown says none of this should be a surprise considering the culture we live in. She points to all the reality shows in which people are mean and put each other down.

"Bullying is a national pastime in this country. We love it."


Even shows you think are harmless, like American Idol,  are full of people putting each other down.

"Cutthroat antics, bad-mouthing — it’s bloodsport in this country and all of a sudden we get riled up because people are getting hurt. That’s the consequences of living in a culture where cruelty has become entertainment."

Lisa Penney is a University of Houston psychology professor. She says cyber bullying is simply too easy to get away with.

"I think that it’s one of those kinds of actions that has a high potential payoff with very little risk for most people, because you can really damage a person’s reputation."
 
So what are the answers? Some are calling for tougher laws. But what kind of laws? This is Professor Brown.

"I do think we need to start looking at some of the social media sites and decide whether it’s OK to post pictures of anybody but yourself."

Professor Penney says legislating bad behavior when it comes to students can get tricky. If there was an easy answer, I imagine as a society we would have found it already. In the movie My Bodyguard the bully, played by Matt Dillon, ends up with a bloody nose. Unfortunately the real life endings these days have been much more tragic.