I heard my share of mean comments about my weight, height, and personality while I was in school, but as someone who has never truly been “bullied,” I always just saw it as part of the growing up process. Thus, I never truly understood what bullying is and the impact it has.
As a result, Bullying Under Attack, edited by Stephanie H. Meyer, John Meyer, Emily Sperber, and Heather Alexander, really shed some light on the intensity and reality of bullying — especially on how it has changed with use of the internet and social media.
The book is a project of Teen Ink, and includes works written by teenagers about their own experiences. With accounts from all three perspectives in the bullying cycle — victim, bully, and bystander — the book offers a unique look at the phenomenon. One usually hears stories from the victim’s perspective, but rarely from the bully’s or bystander’s.
Overall, the text is rather Chicken-Soup in style. Beginning with the perspective of a parent, readers are introduced to the deadly consequences of bullying. In addition, the afterword written by Dr. Ramani Durvasula ties together all the personal tales of bullying in a very professional and informative way. Durvasula explains the emotions one may feel after reading the collection.
Two important points that I took away: That bullying is different nowadays — and, perhaps more surprisingly, that there are teachers and people in administrative positions who will turn a blind eye to it. The latter really upset me, since we are taught to trust those in positions of authority and to rely on them to help younger people. It saddens me to see that that trust is abused. Thinking about how much courage it must have taken these students to come forward, only to be ignored, is depressing. I hope that the anti-bullying efforts out there mean that teachers and administrative staff members will be more accountable and will do more to protect students and deter bullying on campus.
As for how the internet and social media have made bullying easier to carry out, the book made me recall my younger years. Looking back, the period when I was in middle school was probably the start of cyber bullying, with instant messaging, Xanga, and MySpace. I do not even think it was called cyber bullying then, but I remember it was hard to monitor and place blame.
Now there are a bunch of social media sites — so many that it is hard to keep up. This means people can now hide behind a computer screen, and no longer need to filter their words. Bullies can effortlessly say things, mean things, one may not have been able to say in person. For parents who want to learn more about the online bullying landscape, the book gives a great overview.
Beside parents, I think teen readers can really benefit from reading the book. After all, they are likely in one of those three positions: bully, victim, or bystander. It can help them to know that they are not alone and that someone else shares their experience. Perhaps it can even teach them how their actions affect others.
Overall, the book is well put together. It offers new insight and reveals the issues of modern day bullying. However, if you are not a parent, teenager, person who has experienced bullying in the past, or person who works with teens, you may have a hard time, as I did, truly relating to the personal accounts. Yes, there were stories that made me emotional, but at times I felt that at three pages each, the personal accounts were simply too short to evoke feeling.
Still, it might be just fine if the book isn’t for someone like me. For the audience it’s meant for, it seems like a highly effective collection of lessons and experiences. And who knows — it may just stop some readers from continuing to feel bad about themselves, or from continuing to bully.
Bullying Under Attack: True Stories Written by Teen Victims, Bullies & Bystanders
HCI Teens, September, 2013
Paperback, 264 pages