A Great New Yorker Piece on Bullying & Teen Suicide

In the latest New Yorker there’s a great article about a very sad situation. It’s about a Rutgers freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after being harassed by his roommate and another friend. It’s a tragic story, but I won’t sum it up here. I wanted to share a paragraph from this article that represents some of the best stuff I’ve read to come out of research around adolescent relationships and bullying. Again, the full article can be found here.

A recent paper by two scholars of new media—Alice Marwick, of Harvard, and Danah Boyd, of N.Y.U.—describes the tendency of teen-age girls to categorize even quite aggressive behavior as mere “drama,” in the same category as online gossip and jokes. Policy-makers and television anchors talk of “bullies” and the “bullied,” but teen-agers tend not to, in part because “teens gain little by identifying as either,” the scholars explain. “Social stigmas prevent teens from recognizing that they are weak, and few people are willing to admit that they purposefully hurt others. . . . ‘Drama’ also implies something not to be taken seriously, to be risen above, while the adult-defined ‘bullying’ connotes childishness or immaturity to teenagers.

How is “drama” defined for a new generation of young adults? It seems to me that young adults use the term “drama” almost as a way to rationalize some of the horrible things that are either said about them or done to them.

The key question I’d like to see from this study is… What can be done about this? How can we join adolescents in moving forward through the “drama” and into a meaningful life?

These are the million dollar questions of the people, like us, who work with youth. I wish I had those answers.


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