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Mean Girls: How to Combat Bullying

Mean Girls: How to Combat Bullying

(ARA)- Does the word "bully" evoke an image of a tough, muscular boy beating up on a skinny kid on a school playground? Despite the popular perception that only boys are playground and bus bullies, girls' involvement in bullying is just as common and visible--and with equal emotional and social consequences.
"As a middle school administrator in an urban school setting, I deal with large incidences of student harassment involving threats and disparaging remarks," says Dr. Dallas Jackson, professor of educational leadership at Argosy University/Tampa and assistant principal of curriculum at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in Pinellas County, Fla. "Over 50 percent of the bullying incidences involve one girl picking on another."
The usual motivation behind bullying is amplified by relational aggression, which can socially isolate the victim while also increasing the social status of the bully. Perpetrators might be driven by jealousy, a need for attention, anger and fear of (or need for) competition. One reason girls choose this type of bullying, rather than more direct acts of harassment, is that the bully typically avoids being caught or held accountable. These bullies are often popular, charismatic girls who are already receiving positive attention from adults.
Acts of relational aggression are common among girls in American schools. Specific acts can include rumor spreading, secret-divulging, alliance-building, backstabbing, ignoring, excluding from social groups and activities, verbal insults and hostile body language, such as eye-rolling and smirks.
What can be done to help curtail bullying at the school level? Jackson points to a number of measures schools have implemented, such as the use of close-circuit television and frequent intervention by school guidance counselors and school resource officers. "Teen girls can oftentimes have a vengeance towards one another, and it requires a team approach to resolve," says Dr. Jackson. Some schools even have a "zero-tolerance" policy on bullying, and require every student to sign an anti-bullying contract that is referred to during mediation and discipline procedures.
The first and most important step a bullied teenage girl should take is to report the bullying and harassment to parents and school officials. According to Jackson, the middle school at which he works enforces a "first come, first heard" rule. "Students are told that if they are participating in or retaliating in an incident of harassment or bullying and are called to the office, the policy is going to favor the reporter. This measure has increased incidences of reporting and minimized the acts of bullying that happen on a daily basis."
Parents can take a proactive step in helping their daughters by watching and observing emotional signs and body language. When their teen daughters appear sullen, secretive, and moody, many parents attribute these behaviors to normal hormonal changes and adolescent rebellion. However, these may well be symptoms that the girl is a victim of relational aggression. School absences, anxiety, depression and long-term mental health concerns can all be consequences of relational aggression.
The following are some practical tips provided by Dr. Jackson that girls can follow if they find themselves victims of bullying:
* Get an adult involved immediately.
* Do not associate with friends who require things or favors of you as a condition of friendship.
* Do not participate in gossip. This includes being a third-party message conveyer.
* Assess your situation by knowing who is good and who is not in your circle of friends.
* Maintain an open and honest relationship with your parents and family to maintain a support system in trying times.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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