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mrkstvns

Do we focus too much on bullying? (Or not enough?)

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Over the past several years, my focus in the troop has been to work with newly bridged scouts to help them master basic scouting skills and work towards their First Class rank.  The first couple months focus on things that scouts need to complete their Scout rank, and that includes talking about bullying and cyberbullying (as part of Scout requirement 6). We do this as a group discussion, involving parents whenever possible (despite our best efforts, some parents still just want to drop off their kid and come back a couple hours later to pick him up).

Every new scout knows about bullying and cyberbullying because they've talked about it at school, if not at home around the dinner table. 

It might just be that our part of town is fairly affluent and "safe", but the vast majority of scouts tell me they have never actually been bullied and they have never had somebody trying to cyberbully them.

Yet, the fear of bullying seems very common among both kids and parents. Is it justified?  

 

More info:
https://www.10news.com/news/local-news/bullying-a-top-concern-for-generation-z-survey-shows 

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22 minutes ago, mrkstvns said:

It might just be that our part of town is fairly affluent and "safe",

Affluency and bullying (both the perpetrator and the victim) do not appear to be significantly negatively correlated.

https://theconversation.com/who-are-more-likely-to-be-bullies-poor-kids-or-rich-kids-27411

As far as it being justified? I think so. Teens currently have the highest rate of suicide in nearly 20 years (2000). It is the second leading cause of death for people 15-24. The opioid crisis likely impacts that stat but then so does cyber bulling. The idea that a bullying event can go viral and live forever online (much longer than the actual incident) is terrifying, not only for the kids impacted but probably for their parents as well.

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Yes, it is justified.  Several parents in our Troop had to meet with two of our ASMs to update them on the poor behavior of three or so Scouts.  They were completely unaware, even though it has had a significant negative impact on some of our other Scouts.  These are the same ASMs who have said that the Troop 'doesn't have a bullying problem'.  We had a recent public event and afterward we were contacted by a local Cub Scout Pack to report on our Troop's abusive treatment of their Webelos.  So yes, I believe it is justified.....

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I would think most troops has some teasing or horseplay that could be construed as bullying by someone who is very sensitive. We try to teach 2 things to be proactive - Protect those who are less likely to be able to protect themselves and we tell some of the scouts to "grow a pair" and learn how stick up for themselves. We occasionaly find a Nelson Muntz but they get ratted out pretty quickly and we stomp that behaviour out pretty quickly.

 

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24 minutes ago, FaithfulScouter said:

Yes, it is justified.  Several parents in our Troop had to meet with two of our ASMs to update them on the poor behavior of three or so Scouts.  They were completely unaware, even though it has had a significant negative impact on some of our other Scouts.  These are the same ASMs who have said that the Troop 'doesn't have a bullying problem'.  We had a recent public event and afterward we were contacted by a local Cub Scout Pack to report on our Troop's abusive treatment of their Webelos.  So yes, I believe it is justified.....

I don't think picking a few personal examples justifies a trend. Teasing, horseplay, and bulling have been going on since the beginning time. Bulling does happen and the severity of it depends on the environment. I know of a troop that got in trouble because one of their scouts was very disrespectful to a Den of visiting Webelos. It wasn't anything more than an immature 11 year old scout showing off to Webelos. It certainly wasn't bulling, but the parents reported it to the troop. The story came to me at the distirct level because the Troop adults went on the defense and they didn't even see it. It was so stupid.

We inherited a Den of Webelos that had a bulling reputation. We weren't worried, disrespecting others isn't tolerated in our troop and we knew how to handle it. But what we found was their Den Leader (one of the moms), encouraged the behavior. The solution was asking mom to stay away from scout activities. She quit and took her scouts with her. Sadly her brats...LOL.. I mean kids, didn't get a real scouting experience.

Two of my kids are high school teachers who get plenty of training in this area. They say the problem today is smart phone technology. Kids don't hang out together like they used, so they  identify their self-image by the responses of other people they have never met from their phone. That is a much bigger issue and suicide is just a symptom. 

At the troop level, it's not hard to teach the scouts to nip disrespect in the bud. My experience is If there are continued instances in a unit, then there is an adult, or adults, knowingly allowing it. 

Barry

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I think the worry is justified.  One of the differences between now and a decade or two ago is that we better understand both the severity and longitudinal harm that bullying causes.  It didn't happen to everyone, but we understand now how deeply affected were the folks it did happen to; that's the reason to take it seriously. 

Social media and electronic communications are force multipliers and accelerants that can make the bullying experience take off faster and be even more devastating, and so they add a level of both danger and complexity to a preexisting problem.

It is possible mrk, although I don't know if there's any data to support this, that what you're seeing is the fruit of antibullying efforts.  On the other hand, my understanding is that the greatest propensity for bullying is roughly the 6th to 9th grade cohort, so you may just be seeing a snapshot right before the scouts enter the densest part of the minefield.

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1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

At the troop level, it's not hard to teach the scouts to nip disrespect in the bud. My experience is If there are continued instances in a unit, then there is an adult, or adults, knowingly allowing it. 

Building a long term explicit culture of zero tolerance, practiced by everyone adult and scout alike, is the best preventative.

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29 minutes ago, T2Eagle said:

Building a long term explicit culture of zero tolerance, practiced by everyone adult and scout alike, is the best preventative.

Building a disciplined culture is exactly correct, but what is zero tolerance? There are adults who believe selfless act of singing happy birthday is a type of bullying. Ductape's post shows bullying aS multiple acts of hurting someone purposefully.  So, how do we draw the line of zero tolerance between innocent unintentional actions and real hurt?

Let's also keep the patrol method in perspective, it's a program where scouts learn about themselves from their good and bad (mostly bad) decisions. Humans aren't born giving respect, our nature is to learn the boundaries of respect and disrespect by observation and practice of social actions. That is what the troop experience is all about. The Scout Oath and Law are self-less guidelines where disrespect doesn't exist. 

Barry

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That poster is great, DuctTape. A lot of kids today can't tell the difference. I've been thinking about bullying a lot because of some of the comments in other posts on patrol methods.

Kids today hear so much about bullying that unless the message is delivered in a very unique way they tune it out. Another problem is that many bullies claim they are bullied. Here's the scenario: A bully makes comments about another kid. The kid tries to ignore it. The bully persists. The kid finally acts out and says something. The bully reports the bullied kid as the aggressor. This happens frequently and the kids know it. By sixth grade, many of them are already jaded about the whole subject. I can't tell you how many kids have been hauled down to the office just because they pushed back on a bully. Sometimes the bully is the one who knows exactly how to push buttons and get his parents outraged and the system activated. I've seen this happen in scouts as well. So it's very complicated. 

Because it's so complicated, this is why I was thinking about commentators who feel that peer to peer roasting is a good way to teach the patrol method, or that adults should stay 300 yards away. In my opinion, you have to be careful about this. You can stay hands off but you should still be monitoring what's going on. There's a limit to what kids can sort out on their own, and staying within earshot is the best way to figure out who is bullying whom if an incident occurs. 

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4 minutes ago, yknot said:

Because it's so complicated, this is why I was thinking about commentators who feel that peer to peer roasting is a good way to teach the patrol method, or that adults should stay 300 yards away. In my opinion, you have to be careful about this. You can stay hands off but you should still be monitoring what's going on. There's a limit to what kids can sort out on their own, and staying within earshot is the best way to figure out who is bullying whom if an incident occurs. 

Yep, but 100 yards (300 feet) is really a philosophical term meaning a safe environment where scouts can make decisions without adult intimidation. 100 yards could be done in a room if the philosophy is part of the troop culture. And remember, these suggestions aren't made without experience to support it.

There is always a risk when inexperienced decision makers making wrong decisions, but there is a difference between giving space with a blind eye and keeping a finger on the tone of the patrols. When scouts feel the freedom to make any decision, they will make bad decisions anywhere, even in front of the adults. Scouts know their limitations because they test them all the time. 

A couple of stories; I once saw a troop with blind adults at summer camp. The camp was having a volleyball tournament and one troops was told to leave the tournament as a result of their scouts' language and aggressive unscout like behavior. What struck me was the SM standing in the middle of his troop without flinching. 

The other story is an accidental discussion with an adult I didn't know personally. We met in a store somewhere and once we learned that we were both scouters, the discussion took off toward scouting. The ASM worked his way into bragging ( I still can't believe it) about how the older scouts bully the new they don't like to keep the patrol numbers in check. Back ground is that this troop invites all the Webelos in the district to a Fall weekend campout every year. It is a weekend of fun and Native American Folklore intended to impress the scouts to join. They always get at least 75 or more scouts joining. As the District Membership Chairman, I always wondered why 80% of their scouts dropped out their first year. He answered my question. I took it to the District Commissioner and the SM retired inside a year. 

Our Troop had 100 scouts when I retired as a SM. There is no way adults can continually monitor scout behavior even if they wanted to. Believe it or not, most scouts don't like bad behavior. They just haven't gain enough self-confidence to confront it. That is what the troop experience gives them. Scouts are a lot safer when everyone is expected to hold everyone accountable, including tent mates. 

I once got to see this in action when I snuck down to watch the troop play capture the flag. I was in a position where the scouts couldn't know I was there. A new scout transfer on his first campout that weekend started cussing during play. One of the Scouts in passing said, "hey, we don't use that language here". The transfer responded, "that's cool". And all went as normal. 

Set cultural expectations and the scouts will take care of themselves in most cases.

Barry

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1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

Building a disciplined culture is exactly correct, but what is zero tolerance? There are adults who believe selfless act of singing happy birthday is a type of bullying. Ductape's post shows bullying aS multiple acts of hurting someone purposefully.  So, how do we draw the line of zero tolerance between innocent unintentional actions and real hurt?

Let's also keep the patrol method in perspective, it's a program where scouts learn about themselves from their good and bad (mostly bad) decisions. Humans aren't born giving respect, our nature is to learn the boundaries of respect and disrespect by observation and practice of social actions. That is what the troop experience is all about. The Scout Oath and Law are self-less guidelines where disrespect doesn't exist. 

Barry

I would say it's zero tolerance of being unkind.  One way we've helped scouts think about it is to say you don't have to be friends with everybody, but you do have to be friendly or nice to everybody.

I'm not sure I agree that there is a line between innocent unintentional actions and real hurt.  Rather it is a continuum.  We want to prevent bullying, but as a component of that we want to stop other hurtful behavior.  The lack of intent doesn't mean something didn't hurt.  In the case you cite, it is possible for singing happy birthday to be embarrassing to someone because they don't want attention drawn to them in that way.  If you're not sure, ask.  If a scout is shy and has in other ways indicated that this might make him uncomfortable, ask first before you announce it's his birthday or ask everyone to sing.  Just because most people would be OK with it doesn't mean everybody will be OK with it.  It doesn't hurt you to ask or be more careful, but it might hurt someone else because you weren't.

In our troop, the reason we have mixed age patrols is so we transmit this culture through succeeding years of scouts.  If at the simplest level, something is said or done that falls into the poster's rude category, unintentional but nevertheless hurtful, we expect the older scouts especially to recognize this and speak up on behalf of the person and correct gently and appropriately the person who was rude.  if an adult sees this kind of interaction they reward through some sort of attaboy the scout who speaks up, or again gently and discreetly, point out the missed opportunity if that's what occurred.

The unintentionality deserves more discussion than I can give it here, other than to say that people sometimes mistakenly believe that because something was unintentional it means it was acceptable.  My best example is if you accidentally step on someone's foot you apologize, even if you didn't mean to step on their foot and even if it didn't actually injure the person.  The same applies to words and other actions, it's the affect of your actions on other people that governs whether your own behavior was OK.

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To the OP: I'd say we intensely focus on

  • not bullying: friendly, courteous, kind
  • and opposing bullies: brave, clean, and reverent

Adults most certainly set the tone with this.

But, importantly, we assert positive action. It's not enough to stop being an oppressor. Nor is it enough to identify someone as such. We are truly "obsessed" about bringing up youth who rise above the fray.

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3 minutes ago, T2Eagle said:

I'm not sure I agree that there is a line between innocent unintentional actions and real hurt.  Rather it is a continuum.  We want to prevent bullying, but as a component of that we want to stop other hurtful behavior.  The lack of intent doesn't mean something didn't hurt.  In the case you cite, it is possible for singing happy birthday to be embarrassing to someone because they don't want attention drawn to them in that way.  If you're not sure, ask.  If a scout is shy and has in other ways indicated that this might make him uncomfortable, ask first before you announce it's his birthday or ask everyone to sing.  Just because most people would be OK with it doesn't mean everybody will be OK with it.  It doesn't hurt you to ask or be more careful, but it might hurt someone else because you weren't.

True, but there is an expectation that victims understand the difference of intention and react accordingly.  Reacting otherwise is just as much un-scout like as if the harm was intentional. 

12 minutes ago, T2Eagle said:

I'm not sure I agree that there is a line between innocent unintentional actions and real hurt.  Rather it is a continuum.  We want to prevent bullying, but as a component of that we want to stop other hurtful behavior.  The lack of intent doesn't mean something didn't hurt.  In the case you cite, it is possible for singing happy birthday to be embarrassing to someone because they don't want attention drawn to them in that way.  If you're not sure, ask.  If a scout is shy and has in other ways indicated that this might make him uncomfortable, ask first before you announce it's his birthday or ask everyone to sing.  Just because most people would be OK with it doesn't mean everybody will be OK with it.  It doesn't hurt you to ask or be more careful, but it might hurt someone else because you weren't.

Sure, but there shouldn't be an expectation to ask for permission to communicate  with cultural norms. Let's face it, everyone has something that makes them uncomfortable that most other people would consider normal, like Singing happy birthday. I'm sure followers of all religions are offended everyday because they follow a basic moral set of rules for behavior. But, most learn to discern the intention, not the action. There is as much responsibility to practice discernment of intent as there is discipline of using good intent. If authority only reacts to victims cries, the victims will never learn to judge intent and react accordingly. 

Barry

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Oct 3, 2019:  A 16-year-old Eagle Scout has been sentenced to five days in a juvenile jail and 18 months of probation for threatening to shoot up his Catholic school in South Carolina in a group chat where he also sent racist videos...The judge also ordered the teen to attend a wilderness camp to help with behavioral and social skills. The guns in his parents' house must be given to relatives approved by the sheriff's office.

http://www.startribune.com/teen-gets-5-days-in-juvenile-jail-for-racist-videos-threats/562071922/

In my experience, we adults cannot agree what constitutes bullying and the measures that should be taken ,  yet we all seem to agree the potential threat level from bullying is higher than ever. 

My $0.02,

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