Curbing Bullying among Teenage Girls

Article excerpt

BULLYING INCIDENTS HAVE EXPLODED IN OUR SCHOOLS to the point that many states are requiring that all schools have anti-bullying policies. From years past, this is a huge improvement and a step in the right direction. However, these programs are clearly not "one size fits all." While traditional programs may help the traditional bully, dealing with teenage female bullies, a.k.a. relational aggression, takes a completely different approach. In career and technical education (CTE) this female bullying is often compounded when you have traditional programs, such as cosmetology and nursing, that are mostly populated by females.

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Mean Girls

The Hollywood dramas "13" and "Mean Girls" might be fiction; however the concept of girls engaging in such risky and mean behavior is clearly true. In addition, with the access to technology, the cyber world lends itself beautifully to the covert type of bullying that is traditional among females. According to Wikipedia, "Relational Aggression, also known as covert bullying, is a type of aggression in which harm is caused through damage to relationships or social status within a group rather than physical violence. Relational aggression is more common and studied among girls than boys."

When specifically talking about teenage girls today, we must first look at the big picture: One in three teenage girls in the United States gets pregnant at least once before turning 20; drug use among girls ages 12-17 has surpassed that of boys in the same age group; and girls make up 30 percent of all juvenile arrests today, and this number is steadily increasing.

In looking at these stats regarding risky behavior, and with the increase in incidents of female bullying, schools today must get a handle on the way their teenage girls go about harassing each other and put in place programs to deter it. Because of the concentration of females in traditional CTE programs, getting a handle on this type of behavior is imperative to the safety and well-being of all. Gossip, lies, rumors, the silent treatment--these are all aspects of relational aggression that at a glance have been around for a long time. However, combined with the increase of risky behavior among teenage girls and their easy access to the cyber world, these things have created an entirely new kind of bully, the "Uber Bully."

The Internet and cell phones have become their new recruiting playground serving as "weapons of peer destruction." The use of technology keeps the cyber-bully virtually anonymous. It frees teens from their traditional morals, norms, ethics and, at times, their conscience.

The Cyber and Cell Phone Bully

Cyber-bullying takes many forms and multiplies every day. Educators must stay on top of what is out there so that they know where to look when investigating a bullying incident. E-mails, instant messages, blogs, burn books, MySpace, Face-book, Twitter, Flash Mobs, YouTube, and Formspring.me are just a few of the evergrowing tools that are being used to bully in the cyber world. Most of the bullying on these sites can be done anonymously, has less opportunity for adult intervention and can involve hundreds of people.

The cell phone has become an integral weapon for bullies with sexting being at the forefront of concerns. Sexting is a result of advances in technology enabling new forms of social interaction. Messages with sexual content are being exchanged via text messages or online. Newer technology also allows photographs and videos, which are intrinsically more explicit and have a greater impact. According to a survey by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (2009), 20 percent of teens have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves.

In addition, 71 percent of teen girls have posted content to a boyfriend. The social danger of sexting is, of course, that material can very easily and widely promulgate, over which the originator has no control. …