Changing the culture of bullying
April 1st, 2011
Omaha, NE – Bullying has been around for, probably, as long as mankind. But, itâ€™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.
â€œHi everybody, Iâ€™m not here to ask you to accept my friend request,â€ 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.
â€œThis isnâ€™t an issue that makes headlines every day,â€ Obama continued. â€œBut it affects every single young person in our country.â€
Michelle Obama added, â€œAnd itâ€™s something that we care about, not only as President and First Lady but also as parents. Itâ€™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.â€
â€œThis attention that the White House gave to itâ€¦ really propelled this into a national conversation,â€ 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 canâ€™t get away from computers, cell phones, or wherever bullying may be happening.
â€œSo what used to be some behaviors that might have been confined to the playground, or the hallway, or walking to and from school,â€ Swearer said, â€œnow can happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through the use of technology.â€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 â€“ as data came out showing just how unhealthy smoking is, the habit dropped off. But, it still goes on.
â€œAre we going to eradicate bullying? Probably not,â€ she said. â€œBut I see the pendulum right now in a place where there is heightened awareness regarding the devastating, lasting effects that bullying can have.â€
â€œPeople are starting to get to the point where bullying is really totally unacceptable and not tolerated.â€
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