Deterring Teen Bullying: Dos and Don’ts

There’s been a lot of interest lately in passing new bullying and cyberbullying laws. The pressure to pursue these provisions seems to come from the idea that the threat of harsher penalties will deter teens from bullying others. But will they? Deterrence theory is a very popular philosophy within the criminal justice system, and as such serves as the basis for many policies (e.g., mandatory sentences and “three strikes” laws). The basic premise is simple: humans are rational beings who weigh the costs and benefits of any behavior and will ultimately act in a way that maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain. Rational people will therefore be more likely to refrain from deviance when the costs (severe punishment) are increased.

The problem with this perspective is that adolescent brains haven’t yet fully developed to the point where we can assume rationality in the face of unknown or unlikely consequences. (read more…)

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6 thoughts on “Deterring Teen Bullying: Dos and Don’ts

  1. The SMART Playbook

    Great article! I really wish more parents would begin to educate their kids at a young age on the subject of netiquette. At the age of 8-10 most kids are emailing and engaging on line and most parents have not educated them on how to stay safe on line. I don’t think parents are trying to avoid it but they are just too busy and overwhelmed with day-to-day activities to know where and how to begin. The SMART Playbook for ages 7-12 has a chapter (or as I like to call it – a game plan) dedicated to technology talk. It’s a simple chapter that explains all the do’s and don’ts on how to stay safe and polite on line. A busy parents guide to teaching technology safety. My boys inspired the book and they have both complete the technology section – includes games and challenges and a tech code of conduct guide. We shouldn’t rely on the schools to begin the process. This is our responsibility as a parent!
    Suzanne Wind
    Mom with a Mission
    Author of The SMART Playbook

  2. Fiona Lucas

    This is one of the most balanced articles I’ve read when it comes to approaches to deter bullying. It seems that creating more and more laws and criminialising children is the favoured path of many, but I feel that really will create another layer of problems down the track. I’m a huge proponent of ensuring that parents are modelling respectful behaviours at home including how they use mobile devices and social media. We need to be wary of over cotton wooling our children and we need to teach them responsible behaviour. Every parent will have a different approach to parenting, but I think all parents want to keep their children safe, and in order to protect our children we need to be empowered and educated.
    Fiona Lucas
    Author Futureproof Your Kids
    Founder iRespectOnline®

  3. Smart Phones for a Smarter Future | ElectriConnected

    […] wouldn’t solve anything. One major concern to parents is for their children to be safe online. In the official blog of the cyber bullying research center, one of the best ways to combat cyber bullying is to connect with the students and educate them in […]

  4. Ross Ellis

    Hi Tony,

    You can’t tell parents how to parent — although in some cases that would be great! So the answer to your question is no. Even if I were to suggest legislation for parenting, it would never get past a politician’s desk,

    However when kids learn from their parents’ bad behavior, it would be beneficial if parents participated with their children in behavior therapy. Would make for a happy family, happy children and stop their kids from targeting others. At the very least, the child bully does need behavior therapy. If they get a slap on the wrist, they learn nothing and their behavior will continue — very likely into adulthood. That said parents should be educated to teach their kids how to treat others and to be responsible digital citizens!

  5. Tony Esteves

    Hi Ross,
    Relating to the new bullying and cyberbullying laws, are you suggesting legislation for parenting?

  6. rossellis

    This is a great article Justin. All of it can work!!

    The one thing we still need to address is getting to the root of the problem. Some bullies learn this behavior at home, so when they use bullying behavior, their parents don’t understand what they’ve done wrong. This would call for behavioral management therapy for the bully and if possible even for the family. It’s important for the bully to understand the causes of their behavior, why it’s wrong and how they can change it.

    Ross Ellis
    Founder and Chief Executive Officer
    STOMP Out Bullying