Bullies, Technology & Bullets

Article excerpt

Bullying isn't like it used to be. Contemporary bullies are also using technology. They're making nasty cell-phone calls, sending e- mails and text messages and posting embarrassing things on the Internet.

The anonymous cowards.

When I was a kid in the '70s, at least bullies had to put some effort into their work. They were still cowards -- they picked on kids who were small and defenseless -- but they had to do most of their work face to face.

It's not possible to give a wedgie over the Internet.

That made the bullies vulnerable. There were lots of older kids in our neighborhood who protected us. A bully who roughed us up was likely to get roughed up himself. And bullies feared nobody as they did my sister Kris.

I'm certain one guy still regrets the day he decided to bust up my go-kart. He was a big, fat kid and he laughed and taunted me as he kicked my handcrafted vehicle into pieces -- until Kris appeared out of nowhere.

She tackled him from behind and down he went. As he lay on his belly, Kris clenched her fists and pounded with abandon. He blubbered like a baby, forever humiliated in front of the other neighborhood kids. Bullies are generally not as tough as they appear to be.

But now, thanks to technology, anybody can bully.

"Traditional bullying was about boys intimidating other boys by physical force," says Carleton Kendrick, a family therapist and author of "Take Out Your Nose Ring, Honey, We're Going to Grandma's." "But technology has enabled people to bully who otherwise might not have before. One of the biggest trends is a significant increase in bullying by girls."

At the same time the opportunities to bully have increased, the kids who are bullied are more isolated. Families are smaller, neighborhoods are emptier and latchkey kids often find themselves alone.

A lot of kids aren't handling the trend well.

"According to various studies, one in three kids is either bullied or a bully," says Kendrick. …