Changing the culture of bullying


April 1st, 2011

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Omaha, NE – Bullying has been around for, probably, as long as mankind. But, it’s taking new forms. A Lincoln professor who has studied the complexities of why bullying occurs, and how to stop it, was invited to Washington recently, as the White House shone a national spotlight on an age-old issue.

The President and First Lady introduced the White House bullying conference with a Facebook message, pointing out the new platforms where bullying can occur.

“Hi everybody, I’m not here to ask you to accept my friend request,” President Barack Obama opened the conversation in a video posted on Facebook. He was introducing a White House conference on bullying, held March 10th, hosted by him and the First Lady. The event was streamed live on Facebook, a nod to the rapidly evolving platform on which bullying can play out.

“This isn’t an issue that makes headlines every day,” Obama continued. “But it affects every single young person in our country.”

Michelle Obama added, “And it’s something that we care about, not only as President and First Lady but also as parents. It’s tough enough being a kid today, and our children deserve the chance to learn and grow, without constantly being picked on, made fun of or worse.”

“This attention that the White House gave to it… really propelled this into a national conversation,” said Susan Swearer, an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Swearer was invited to the conference to talk about her research into bullying, and how it has evolved into an ongoing experience for some kids, who can’t get away from computers, cell phones, or wherever bullying may be happening.

“So what used to be some behaviors that might have been confined to the playground, or the hallway, or walking to and from school,” Swearer said, “now can happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through the use of technology.”

Experts say bullying will only stop when teachers, kids and parents no longer tolerate it. (Photo credit The Bullying Project)

Bullying has made headlines recently as a number of gay teens committed suicide after being bullied and picked on for years. Swearer said there is a greater understanding of bullying today, and the detrimental impact it has over a lifetime. She compared it to smoking cigarettes – as data came out showing just how unhealthy smoking is, the habit dropped off. But, it still goes on.

“Are we going to eradicate bullying? Probably not,” she said. “But I see the pendulum right now in a place where there is heightened awareness regarding the devastating, lasting effects that bullying can have.”
“People are starting to get to the point where bullying is really totally unacceptable and not tolerated.”

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