Researchers advocate kindness to combat bullying

April 27, 2010, Pennsylvania State University

(PhysOrg.com) -- The stereotypical school bully of past generations was easy to identify -- the playground brute victimizing those weaker and vulnerable.

But today’s typical bully is a far cry from that tough guy or girl who made life miserable for others. And the consequences have escalated tragically. In one week recently, a 13-year-old hanged himself in a Texas barn, an 8-year-old jumped out of a two-story building in Houston, and nine Massachusetts teenagers face jail time after allegedly harassing a 15-year-old girl so mercilessly that she killed herself.

Students are turning to suicide, experts say, as an escape from taunts that now continue beyond the school day through cyberspace. Experts say is becoming easier as technology develops. “That’s becoming more prevalent than the face-to-face type of bullying. They don’t have to do it in front of a person; they can put in a different name or login and be anonymous,” one says.

Two Penn State Harrisburg faculty researchers argue adolescent bullying and youth can be confronted in America through in-school programs that integrate “kindness -- the antithesis of victimization.”

In an article scheduled for journal publication, Assistant Professor of Education Shanetia Clark and Assistant Professor of Reading Barbara Marinak write, “Unlike previous generations, today’s adolescents are victimizing each other at alarming rates, leading adults to ask why. Is it caused by television? Video games? Music? Is an absence of moral and civic values contributing to the rampant rise…?”

Noting that legislation, nationally and locally, and intense awareness efforts have sought to stem bullying, they point to recent research suggesting a broader perspective is necessary to reverse a loss of empathy in society. The foundation of their solution is reading, discussing and acting upon the attributes of kindness, which “enables us to be our best selves.”

Clark and Marinak argue schools can practice prevention by arranging discussions about bullying and kindness and that the “purposeful integration of social studies and literature can be a catalyst for critical instruction.” Included in the article are numerous suggested books for middle and high schools that can be used in a variety of classes including psychology, sociology, English and history to examine the actions of a responsible citizenry.

“Carefully selected texts provide an anonymous forum for students to examine the circumstances that can lead to violent behavior,” they say. The also stress research that indicates human kindness facilitates communication, cooperation and trust in all arenas.

“By engaging with texts and others, young people can shape their identities, make sense of the world and move away from victimizing themselves and others,” they say. “Teachers can help by critically discussing and unpacking the moral and civic values in these important stories. , perpetrators and spectators in complex school systems can speak more openly through a veil of anonymity.”

The researchers suggest books that contain messages highlighting attributes of kindness, such as sense of belonging, respect, honesty and empathy. The titles include "Rescue Josh McGuire" and "Touching Spirit Bear" by Ben Mikaelson, "Radiance Descending" by Paula Fox, "The Misfits" by James Howe, "The Barn" by Avi, "Coast to Coast" by Betsy Byars, "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier, "Th1rteen R3asons Why" by Jay Asher, "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst, "No Shame, No Fear" by Anne Turnbull, "Bait" by Alex Sanchez and "Sucker" by Carson McCullers.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Young children use physics, not previous rewards, to learn about tools

February 23, 2018
Children as young as seven apply basic laws of physics to problem-solving, rather than learning from what has previously been rewarded, suggests new research from the University of Cambridge.

The 'loudness' of our thoughts affects how we judge external sounds

February 23, 2018
The "loudness" of our thoughts—or how we imagine saying something—influences how we judge the loudness of real, external sounds, a team of researchers from NYU Shanghai and NYU has found.

Study: Tinder loving cheaters—dating app facilitates infidelity

February 23, 2018
The popular dating app Tinder is all about helping people form new relationships. But for many college-aged people, it's also helping those in relationships cheat on their romantic partners.

Looking for the origins of schizophrenia

February 23, 2018
Schizophrenia may be related to neurodevelopmental changes, including brain's inability to generate an appropriate vascular system, according to new study resulted from a partnership between the D"Or Institute for Research ...

Color of judo uniform has no effect on winning

February 22, 2018
New research on competitive judo data finds a winning bias for the athlete who is first called, regardless of the colour of their uniform. This unique study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, puts to rest the debate on ...

Infants are able to learn abstract rules visually

February 22, 2018
Three-month-old babies cannot sit up or roll over, yet they are already capable of learning patterns from simply looking at the world around them, according to a recent Northwestern University study published in PLOS One.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

DozerIAm
Apr 27, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
LuckyBrandon
not rated yet Apr 27, 2010
agreed.

but honestly, looking at video games, tv, etc. is a waste of time.

I didn't get bullied as a kid, I bullied the bully's actually....
You want the reason it happens...us parents have gotten WAY too soft on our kids. I was taught not to start a fight, but to finish it if someone else starts it, and that I would not be in trouble at home if I did that.
I tell my children the same, and when my boy does occasionally get bullied and tells me basically that he punked out, I tell him to get back into that bullies face adn knock him on his ass if he needs to....which he has done, and guess what, that bully is now his tag along buddy...
The only way IMO to keep kids from getting all agitated over something as minor as being bullied, is to make sure they are taught to be hard, and let them know that being a wuss simply should not be an option.

A bully can't respect you until you get down with them on their terms...once you do, win or lose, your good..
Thats my 2 cents on it..
DozerIAm
5 / 5 (1) Apr 29, 2010
No wonder our kids are all testing poorer than many other developed nations - we are spending valuable education time showing kids how to get along. That's not a teacher's job - its a parents job.

If a kid gets caught being a bully, he/she should get punished by the school... then by whichever parent picks him up from school to start his suspension... then by the other parent.

This brings to mind the sad fact that one doesn't need to pass a test to become a parent.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.