Childhood Bullying: Are Adults the Problem?

Presenter: Stuart Green, DMH, LCSW, MA
View this webinar by clicking here
Download this webinar’s corresponding slides here.
Dr. Green discussed the nature of bullying and what we can do to help prevent bullying. He gave specific modeling practices for dealing with bullies and resources to reach out to if you are in need of assistance.


  1. Karen Sebben says:

    My son was bullied for three school years by the same peers. I followed the chain of command and nothing changed. We conducted ourselves in a respectful, professional manner. We dealt with self righteous, bureaucratic administrators, our childrens’ role models, who most definitely contributed towards the damage done to my child. When you are alone as parents, how do you fight an entire system. Now I am a not-for-profit organization in my community raising awareness. We need to equip parents on how to deal with a system that is broken. There is more emphasis geared toward the safety of union members than that of our children.

    • Dr. S. Green says:

      I’m sorry to say that your experience is unfortunately not uncommon. Your response is the most powerful (and perhaps healing in some way) – finding meaning in the experience by determining to help others/the community (creating an organization, raising awareness). The key of course is (ideally) not to be alone fighting a system but to both work within the system (as you’ve obviously tried hard to do) and work outside it to change (by joining with others). We encourage parents at every step to join with others. Dealing with these matters alone is not only painful but typically ineffective. It is not enough, however, to leave this type of joining and organizing to parents alone. Schools need to recognize that it is impossible to function well enough unless strong, empowered parent organizations, rooted in the local community, provide additional support for childrena and parents, and provide an outside source of encouragement and (frankly) pressure to do the right thing. So school administrators should routinely assess whether there are enough active parent organizations, functioning well enough, and take active steps to encourage such organizations to arise and be strong. As I mentioned in the webinar, I’m always astonished to see that not all schools have special education parenting groups, or parenting groups for other communities needing stronger support.

  2. J Hoffman says:

    What advice would you give parents who want to contact the parent of a cyberbully, to work it out among them before going to a school, which may not feel it has jurisdiction anyway? – Submitted by JHoffman

    • Dr. S. Green says:

      Response: Again (see the previous responses) on the ‘jurisdiction’ issue: Studies so far seem to indicate that most cyberbullying occurs between students who know each other from the same school buildings and communities, and there’s little doubt that the cyberbullying which occurs (even if that is the main ‘space’ in which bullying is occurring) substantially and negatively impacts the functioning of the students involved and the climate/functioning of the school. Schools must address these issues. Having said that, current law and guidance to schools does not provide adequate requirements and guidance for schools to do, so many (most? almost all?) schools simply don’t, with principals commonly (as it’s reported to me, and as media have reported) telling parents that it’s not happening on school grounds or at school functions and therefore the school can do nothing. This is not an adequate response. In terms of the parent/s of a bullied child dealing directly with the parent/s of a child who bullies: I am aware of few instances in which this approach works. It is very difficult for the parent of a child who has bullied to see their child in this way and/or to treat it with the degree of seriousness the occurrence (typically a pattern, not only one act) deserves. In over ten years of taking calls from parents I have not had one call (that I recall!) in which a parent told me they had successfully resolved their child’s situation this way. In fairness, I once gave a talk at a private school, made this point, and a parent at the meeting very pointedly told me that she would indeed deal with it just this way and the situation would definitely be resolved! But I can’t recall if she had actually done this or just felt very confident. This approach also requires that the parent of the child who bullies is going to have some very effective means for getting or helping their child to change their behavior, which is also typically not so (in my experience). The fact is, the kids engaged in the bullying (the child hurt, the child or children doing the hurting) are most often (almost always?) involved with each other at school, and that is where the most effective measures can be taken. I can envision at some point social networking sites, or other organizational spaces beyond school (e.g., a community center, a faith community, etc.) understanding the importance of this issue and addressing it as well. Ultimately, parents of children who bully will get a stronger measure about what’s occurring (that it’s wrong and needs to be addressed) and that will help as well.

  3. KelleyT says:

    What level of monitoring of cellphone and computer use do you recommend that parents do of middle school children? Trust? Keyloggers? Filters? submitted by JHoffman

    • Dr. S. Green says:

      The answer would be – it depends. Part of what it depends on is the history of the parent/child relationship and the child’s functioning. But any child can be hurt in a toxic or irresponsible environment, which certainly exists on the (unrestricted) web, let alone (increasingly) on phones. Ideally, there is a good enough parent/child relationship and good enough ongoing communication that a parent will become aware when a child starts having negative cyber-experiences. There’s extensive discussion of such issues increasingly available from good sources, and two of which I like are Nancy Willard’s various works (including Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats, and visit her website as well), and a colleague’s book, Generation Text by Dr Michael Osit. All parents tend to do a bit of inspection of their child’s cyberworlds, whether planned out or not – e.g., looking over shoulders at the screens, overhearing conversations, picking up a set aside phone, etc. And the standard recommendations are certainly reasonable – the computer in a family room, etc. – but increasingly unrealistic in this age b/o the portability and therefore privacy of these devices, etc. Again, more than the spy software, the communication is really key – the sense a child has that even if it’s trouble that’s already begun, a parent can be told and that parent will be supportive and a good listener before leaping into some kind of action. It’s also important to note that cyberbullying is most often related to in-school and same-community ‘offline’ bullying, and schools need to take responsibility for addressing those negative (violent) relationships and supporting at-risk or hurt students. Having said that, we also need to be holding social networking site and other media owners to a higher standard.

  4. suevitek says:

    Do you have any suggestions on how to repair the damage to self-esteem caused by bullying? Even if the teasing could be stopped, the damage cannot be erased. The resulting lack of self-confidence can be a permanent scar. Thank you, Sue

    • Dr. S. Green says:

      Response: Being bullied is a traumatic experience for most children who experience it, depending to some degree on the extent of it (severity, persistence, nature, etc.). Being bullied typically has lasting effects into adult life, I believe, (and even has some negative effects long-term for the child who bullies). As with any negative or traumatic experiences, the healing or recovery process is very individual. Even in children who are abused and neglected in families, resilience (just one of those ‘individual’ variables) plays a role, for example. But subsequent positive experiences (one of which could certainly be a healing/supportive relationship with a counselor) can help. Counseling is not the only option of course. the “positive experiences” mentioned above will ideally occur more naturally, through the child’s involvement in activities which identify and nuture the child’s strengths, through supportive family and other relationships, etc. etc. A child bullied may even find strength and meaning in adult life (or even as an older child) in acts of organized compassion (anti-bullying activism, for example). The role of counseling is complicated, by the way. We used to believe that when children had grief experiences, counseling would be ideal for everyone. Then some good studies suggested that automatically instituting counseling whenever there was grief sometimes interfered with more natural processes of support and grieving. The study of bullying is still relatively recent and much more needs to be learned about how to help those who experience it (as well as how to prevent and address it in the first place).