Written by Chris Bohm, Chiropractic intern
This past summer American Psychologist, the official journal of the American Psychological Association, released a special issue on the topic of bullying and victimization. In 1997 when Susan Swearer, one of the issue’s two editors, first started studying the problem, she was one of the first researchers in the United States to do so. Back then, only four states had official statutes against bullying behavior. The only existing longitudinal work had come out of Scandinavia in the seventies. However, after Columbine the landscape changed. It was determined that the involved shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, had been victims of bullying themselves. This tragic event prompted a nationwide conversation about bullying. Researchers around the country began studying this work with a seriousness that was lacking in previous research.
It seems that every day I see an increasing amount of stories on my Facebook news feed, twitter timeline, or on the local news that a child or adult has committed suicide because of bullying. I think its time to explore whether and how the Internet has changed the bullying landscape.
In some ways, the research on bullying has affirmed what we already know. Bullying is the result of an unequal power dynamic: the strong attacking the weak. It can happen in different ways: physical violence, verbal abuse in person or online (cyber bullying), the spreading of rumors, humiliation, and exclusion. It is usually prolonged. Most bullies are repeat offenders and are widespread as they target multiple victims. Finally, emerging research reveals that bullying follows us throughout life: workplace and professional bullying are just as common as childhood bullying.
Unfortunately, the internet has opened up this realm providing access to many unidentifiable sources. Before the Internet, bullying ended when you withdrew from the negative physical environment. Now, the bullying dynamic is harder to contain and harder to ignore. Current social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feature open access to your “friends.” Therefore, if you are harassed on your social media page, all of your social circles know about it. As long as you have access to the network, an endless stream of notifications leaves you vulnerable. The inescapability of “cyber-bullying” leaves both emotional and physical scaring making it that much more damaging not just for children, but also for adults.
I would like to share the story of a 12-year-old girl, Mallory, who has recently taken her own life due to bullying. She is just one of many children on a list of bullied victims. Mallory Grossman had her whole life ahead of her. After months of vicious targeted bullying, the sixth-grader committed suicide. She was involved in gymnastics and cheerleading, loved her friends and family, and even spent time making and selling jewelry to raise money for kids with cancer. Things changed drastically for Mallory in middle school. Cruel bullies targeted her and relentlessly picked on her for months on end. They looked for any and every way to make Mallory feel worthless, taking to all forms of social media to bombard her with their vicious attacks. The cruel messages escalated from name calling to the point of making suggestive comments of: “why don’t you kill yourself?”
Mallory’s Parents went to the school repeatedly to report the intense bullying, but say they received no help. They tried opening the lines of communication to the bullies’ parents, but they just met resistance. Her parents were in the process of exploring private schools as an alternative option for Mallory to escape this toxic environment. The time came where Mallory’s Parents went into school and spent three hours in a meeting with her school over bullying incidents that took place that day. This was also the devastating day that this young sixth-grader committed suicide.
Mallory’s suicide devastated her parents and stunned the community. This event a spotlight on the seriousness of bullying and cyber-bullying. The family, with feelings of emptiness, are trying to wade through the grief of this unimaginable tragedy. Mallory’s parents are now speaking out to spread awareness in hopes of preventing future cases. Our hearts go out to Mallory’s Family. No one should feel worthless. No one should be made to feel as though death is his or her only escape from relentless bullying. We pray God will bring them peace and we know He will use this tragedy to help others.
The picture that has emerged suggests that the Internet has made bullying both harder to escape and harder to identify. We are immersed in an online world in which consequences often go unseen. Bullying has always been wrong, yet people let others get away with bullying everyday. Bystander’s NEED to stand up. If we don’t stand up it could lead to more heartbreak and pain. Are we as a society going to wait and let the suicide rates increase because of bullying? Is bullying going to be another statistic in this world? I certainly hope not, but thus far, hope has not helped the victims. One day it will.
Student Intern Christopher Bohm
Gireesh A, Das S, Viner RM. Impact of health behaviours and deprivation on well-being in a national sample of English young people
BMJ Paediatrics Open 2018;2:e000335. doi: 10.1136/bmjpo-2018-000335
Brosowski, Terry. “Bullying Perpetration and Victimization: A Test of Traditional and Cyber-Behaviors as Latent Constructs.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency,