The behavior we are referring to in this incident, is social bullying. Social bullying is a form of bullying that involves teasing someone because of their appearance, spreading lies or rumors, ignoring or even rejecting someone. Social bullying is much more insidious and difficult for teachers and parents to pick up on, and all too prevalent. Many parents are left wondering, “Where does this behavior come from? We certainly don’t teach our children that at home.” A recent study analyzed the incidents of social bullying, also known as social aggression, in television shows frequently watched by children, and reported an average of 14 incidents of social bullying per hour. In another study, researcher Nicole Martin’s team reviewed 150 different episodes of popular TV shows. They found that “92 percent of 150 episodes reviewed featured some form of social aggression”.

Fox 35 News interviews Article Author Dr. Leslie Hamilton, Ph.D

What is even more troubling is that the social aggressive acts were often enacted by the main characters or those with whom young viewers would likely identify with as socially advantaged, reinforcing the idea that is pays to be mean, because popularity trumps basic moral conduct. Such cruel behavior was well depicted in the movie, “Mean Girls,” starring Lindsay Lohan. But many parents think, “Not my sweet Ashley! She’d never do a thing like that…” How can you be sure?

So, what can parents do to help stop social bullying?

1. Let your children know that your disapprove of social bullying. Despite popular belief, your children really do value your opinion, and taking a clear stand on this issue with have a significant impact on your children.

2. Empathize with victims of social bullying, whether on TV, or in the stories your children share with you. Help them to imagine how the targeted person felt while being teased or left out. Empathy is a higher order cognitive process that is not well developed in children, as it develops more is late adolescence. You can help your children learn empathy by asking questions and modeling empathy.

3. Be a good example. Our children are always watching, so be mindful of what you say about others. Do you ridicule others’ style of dress or gossip about others in front of your children? Good habits begin at home, so set a good example.

4. Encourage your child to be assertive rather than aggressive in social situations. Aggressive communication means “what I want, how I feel, is more important than what you want, or how you feel” and infringes on the rights of others. It is disrespectul. Assertive communication says, “What I want and how I feel is important, but what you want and how you feel is also important” and demonstrates mutual respect.

For kids that are targets of social bullying, I offer the words of Homecoming Princess, Whitney Kropp: “The kids that are bullying, do not let them bring you down. Stand up for what you believe in, and go with your heart and go with your gut. That’s what I did, and look at me now. I’m just as happy as can be.”

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information below intact. Authors: Dr Leslie Hamilton, Ph.D – Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern | Edited by Bullying Expert Jim West, MA, LMHC, NCC | Author, International Communicator & Life Coach | Serving Orlando, Lake Mary, Winter Park, Southwest Orlando Florida | Faith Hall- Student Intern