Morning Joe | February 20, 2013
>>> " sticks and stones ." thanks for being here.
>> thanks so much for having me.
>> you've got a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old. i've got a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old. i'm not here yet, but i'm dreading all the access people have to them, things i can't control necessarily. how big is the problem?
>> it's a real problem. and bullying has real serious consequences for kids. but it's also important to say we're not having an epidemic or a huge crisis. the weights of bullying haven't really risen over the years. it's more that we are paying more attention to it, which is good.
>> is the bullying worse now than it was? is there a way to measure that?
>> so it's different. kids used to get beaten up more than they do now. and that was bad for them, but now what happens is that because of all the access to the internet they have and they carry their phones around all the time, the bullying can feel like there's no respite. and it follows them everywhere they're going.
>> so how do you get at that? the ease of bullying today, facebook and tweeting and they get their cell phones with them in classes and stuff like that. does that feed -- obviously it makes it easier to bully, but how do you deal with it if you're a school administrator?
>> so one thing is parents really need to step up and play a role, right? the schools have to help, but it can't just be on the schools because as you were saying, these are devices, and this access is happening all the time, at home, too. and so one thing that's important especially when kids are getting their first phones and first venturing into social media is to go with them and say, you know, in the beginning, i'm going to guide you here. i'm not going to just throw you out the door. and help that way.
>> isn't another part of the problem, parents also need to ed care their children if their children see someone else getting bullied? in terms of not being a bystander. you can draets problem that way, as well?
>> yeah, that is a huge opportunity. studies show that bullying takes place in front of an audience of kids almost all the time. but kids only intervene 20% of the time. and yet when they do, they're able to stop the bullying in half of those cases. so you can see there, there's this real opportunity for the kids who are bystanders to stop passively standing by and step up. and then the question is what do they need? what about their environment helps them do that?
>> did you look at -- i'm really curious about this. there's been this shift in parenting trends and a lot of talk about helicopter parenting and parents who hover and all that stuff. does that have anything to do with this? or maybe not? because as you say, the actual numbers haven't changed over the years.
>> i think that the helicopter parenting is the danger there is that people are going too far . you know, kids are never -- you don't want to monitor them all the time. they need some room to grow, some sense of independence. and then the really tricky part especially with social media is figuring out what that means. if kids are on the computer and you can't see at all what they're doing, are they having a chance to grow, or are they getting into trouble? and how do you make the balance there?
>> go ahead.
>> in addition to being a parent, i'm married to a teacher. so i'm interested, you know, one of the fascinating things is not just how the victim feels. obviously that's terrible and the whole response to it is very difficult. but almost as shocking, maybe even or shocking, is the reaction that i've heard about and seen among the parents of the bully. and i'm interested in the sort of psychology of the bully and the bullying family. can you talk about what you discovered about that and their problems, their issues, how they deal with it?
>> it's certainly true that bullies and in particular what are called bully victims, kids on both sides of the equation, and there is a significant group. those kids tend to have a lot of problems. in terms of their psychological issues, the mental health problems they bring, and often their families are in some ways not functioning in the way they should. they don't necessarily have the right kind of parental supervision . and that can be a real challenge for parents on the other side of the equation because one natural instinct if your kid is having trouble with another kid is to go to these other parents. but if you think those parents might be part of the problem, that isn't necessarily a good idea.
>> there's been a lot of reporting in the media about bully side, calling it a phenomenon, kids bullied to death. is it, in fact, a phenomenon? would you use that term? or how pervasive is that?
>> i wouldn't use that term. i think that term is actually worrisome because it's too simplistic. so bullying can be a trigger for suicide and it can contribute, but the notion that it's the primary risk and primary cause is almost always not true. it's really depression that is the real risk factor for kids. and so the problem with the term "bully side" is it puts the focus on the wrong part of the story. and once we kind of use that word, we crowd out all the other complicating factors.
>> so give me two or three things that we could do as a society, as a culture to address the problem of bullying in public schools , public schools in the lower grades.
>> well, what's really important is to foster a culture in school where kids get rewarded for standing up for other kids instead of for being mean. you know, right now in a lot of schools, and this isn't deliberate, but it comes about just from the environment that kids actually benefit from being aggressive and mean. they become popular that way. they use it as a tool to gain social power . and then the question is how do you break that dynamic in and one answer is that if you show kids that most other kids in the school actually don't like bullying and don't do it, then you're proving to them, this isn't the normal thing. this isn't what everybody does. so one thing that elementary schools have done is done an internal survey. and then they put up posters that say things like "90% of the kids here don't bully." and then they see the rates go down even further because the other kids see that. it's not normal behavior.
>> that's very cool. you talk a little bit about twitter and facebook , what they're doing or not doing to help prevent bullying. i think facebook would say they're doing more than you suggest they're doing. what can we reasonably expect a big company like that to do to monitor all these small interpersonal relationships among a billion users? what should we ask of those companies?
>> well, bullying and harassment are against the rules explicitly on facebook which are not the rules on twitter. and facebook is working with psychologists at yale and berkeley to improve responses when kids complain and encourage kids more to turn to people in their own lives to help them which makes sense. what i criticize facebook for is not doing enough to help schools directly and also facebook has a lot of influence with kids. one question i ask kids when i'm reporting is would you rather be suspended from school or from facebook ? and a lot of kids pick school because they've invested tremen z tremendously in their facebook profile. it could helper suede kids not to break the rules. that's pretty powerful.
>> how could they do that practically? what would you like to see them do?
>> when there are complaints -- and facebook does this, when they see the complaints are valid, they'll kehl kids they broke the rules. they don't really kick kids off completely anymore, because that's too easy to start under another fake name. they call it crippling the user experience temporarily. so they'll say you can't set up a particular kind of group page for a month. and that is something kids really respond to. they don't reoffend.
>> any idea of the number of parents, the percentage of parents who have no idea how facebook works?
>> oh, i hope it's not that high because i think it's actually really important for parents to have some clue, right? if your kids are spending a lot of time, you should have some idea. and it's not that hard to figure out the basics how it works.
>> yeah, mike. it's not that hard.
>> i figured it out.
>> it only took you how long?
>> emily, it's a really important dock this day and age. it's called " sticks and stones ." congratulations. thanks.
>> thanks so.
>>> an australian weatherman goes to extremes to file his forecast. this one does not end the way he had hoped. we'll see what bill karins has planned for us when " morning joe " comes right back.