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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bullying: ‘Not a Normal Part of Growing Up’

By James Lomusico

With news of 13-year-old Westporter Alye Pollack’s YouTube video about bullying going viral, almost 100 persons turned out tonight at Westport’s Conservative Synagogue to hear a clinical forensic psychologist examine the roots of bullying, its tragic toll, misconceptions and ways to combat it.WestportNow.com Image
S. David Bernstein (addressing a Westport audience tonight): “The problem with cyber-bullying is that it’s anonymous.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Titled “Bullying, Cyber-bullying and Sexting: What Every Parent Should Know,” S. David Bernstein’s talk took specific aim at cyber-bullying.

Citing recent WestportNow stories on Pollack, Bernstein, principal of Norwalk-based Forensic Consultants, LLC, called cyber-bullying the most insidious.

“The problem with cyber-bullying is that it’s anonymous,” he said. “With traditional bullying, you know who your bully is. With cyber-bullying it could be someone you think of as a friend.”

Charles Boklan, a former consultant to the Secret Service who now works at Forensic Consultants, agreed.

“It’s much worse than it was years ago,” said Boklan. “Today it’s much more vicious.”

Marcie Bratman, synagogue administrator, said a talk had originally been planned to focus on preschool students, but recent developments made the synagogue decide to expand it to all aspects of bullying.“Bullying has far reaching consequences,” said Bernstein.

He cited the story of a young boy who hung himself after being cyber-bullied by a girl he liked, a suicide Bernstien dubbed “bullycide.”

“What does a forensic psychologist have to do with bullying?” he asked. “Dangerous risk assessments.”

There are those whose anguish makes them determined not only to take their own lives, but others, too, he said.

“Eighty percent of rampage shooters have had histories of being bullied,” he said, pointing to the perpetrators at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School.

And the bullies?

“After high school and after college, where do they go?“asked Bernstien. “The workplace. You can wind up working for a bully.”WestportNow.com Image
Tonight’s Conservative Synagogue talk about bullying attracted about 100 persons. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

He described bullying as a psychopathy where one needs to wrest power from another, usually in the presence of others for approval.

The bystanders, Bernstein said, can be culpable for either encouraging the bully, or for not decrying his or her actions.

Bernstein sees bullying rooted in the fact individuals are not taught empathy by their parents, something exacerbated by a popular culture that encourages people to be hard toward others.

Examples, he agreed, are reality TV shows that vote people off the island, exile weakest links,  banish chefs or denigrate “American Idol” contestants. They are all forms of bullying.

Combating it will not be easy, Bernstein pointed out. It can only be confronted by victims—some of whom may show symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder—taking a stand.

Passivity, he said, only encourages further bullying.

Another approach, he said, is to dispel common myths about bullying, such as the victim brought it on himself, that it is a rite of passage or that children who bully will eventually grow out of it. They do not, said Bernstein.

“It’s not a normal part of growing up,” he said about being victimized.

At the end of his talk Bernstein played the video by Alye Pollack, someone who did not remain passive and netted positive results.


Posted 03/30/11 at 03:20 AM  Permalink


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As someone who was bullied all through school, I’m thinking it was indeed part of a normal life.  Lots of bullies, lots of victims. 

Where do bullies go, in my opinion many grow out of it to lead productive lives.  Many do not.

Posted by David Abrams on March 30, 2011 at 01:32 PM | #

David, many do not grow out of it which is why they don’t recognize it their own kids who are, in turn bullying others.  Excellent point.

Posted by Jean Marie Wiesen on March 30, 2011 at 02:19 PM | #