Being a teenager has never been easy, but in recent years, with the rise of the Internet and social media, it has become exponentially more challenging. Bullying, once thought of as the province of queen bees and goons, has taken on new, complex, and insidious forms, as parents and educators know all too well. Read more...
Being a teenager has never been easy, but in recent years, with the rise of the Internet and social media, it has become exponentially more challenging. Bullying, once thought of as the province of queen bees and goons, has taken on new, complex, and insidious forms, as parents and educators know all too well.
No writer is better poised to explore this territory than Emily Bazelon, who has established herself as a leading voice on the social and legal aspects of teenage drama. In "Sticks and Stones, " she brings readers on a deeply researched, clear-eyed journey into the ever-shifting landscape of teenage meanness and its sometimes devastating consequences. The result is an indispensable book that takes us from school cafeterias to courtrooms to the offices of Facebook, the website where so much teenage life, good and bad, now unfolds.
Along the way, Bazelon defines what bullying is and, just as important, what it "is not." She explores when intervention is essential and when kids should be given the freedom to fend for themselves. She also dispels persistent myths: that girls bully more than boys, that online and in-person bullying are entirely distinct, that bullying is a common cause of suicide, and that harsh criminal penalties are an effective deterrent. Above all, she believes that to deal with the problem, we must first understand it.
Blending keen journalistic and narrative skills, Bazelon explores different facets of bullying through the stories of three young people who found themselves caught in the thick of it. Thirteen-year-old Monique endured months of harassment and exclusion before her mother finally pulled her out of school. Jacob was threatened and physically attacked over his sexuality in eighth grade--and then sued to protect himself and change the culture of his school. Flannery was one of six teens who faced criminal charges after a fellow student's suicide was blamed on bullying and made international headlines. With grace and authority, Bazelon chronicles how these kids' predicaments escalated, to no one's benefit, into community-wide wars. Cutting through the noise, misinformation, and sensationalism, she takes us into schools that have succeeded in reducing bullying and examines their successful strategies. The result is a groundbreaking book that will help parents, educators, and teens themselves better understand what kids are going through today and what can be done to help them through it.
Praise for "Sticks and Stones"
"Intelligent, rigorous . . . Emily Bazelon] is a compassionate champion for justice in the domain of childhood's essential unfairness."--Andrew Solomon, "The New York Times Book Review"
" Bazelon] does not stint on the psychological literature, but the result never feels dense with studies; it's immersive storytelling with a sturdy base of science underneath, and draws its authority and power from both."--"New York"
"A humane and closely reported exploration of the way that hurtful power relationships play out in the contemporary public-school setting . . . As a parent herself, Bazelon] brings clear, kind analysis to complex and upsetting circumstances."--"The Wall Street Journal"
"Bullying isn't new. But our attempts to respond to it are, as Bazelon explains in her richly detailed, thought-provoking book. . . . Comprehensive in her reporting and balanced in her conclusions, Bazelon extracts from these stories useful lessons for young people, parents and principals alike.""--The Washington Post"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-01-14
- Reviewer: Staff
Law journalist, senior editor at Slate (where much of this book’s content appeared), and New York Times contributor Emily Bazelon is a voice of authority on bullying. An antidote to the media frenzy surrounding this now heated issue, Bazelon’s even-handed, thorough, and affecting narrative provides insights and information about the kids, parents, educators, and courts dealing with the actions and aftermath of psychological and physical bullying in schools, as well as insidious cyberbullying. No longer just the province of mean girls and bad boys, bullying, and its attendant “drama,” is an epidemic affecting every community and is rife with a pervasive deniability on the part of instigators, accusers, and adults who are called upon to referee. Bazelon guides readers through three different scenarios, each focusing on a victim or perpetrator of bullying. These include Monique, a middle-school girl, who is targeted by her peers and finds support and friendship outside of school, thanks to family and community sports programs; Jacob, whose “in-your face” gay identity makes him a repeat target and whose parents instigate a lawsuit against the school district for violation of his civil rights; and Flannery, who, with her classmates, bullies fragile, depressive Phoebe, possibly contributing to her suicide and resulting in a wrongful death investigation and trial that draws international attention. Bazelon’s investigative abilities take her into the center of each case—and further: she visits Facebook headquarters to report on its antibullying protocol; she goes to schools where students combat bullying and principals create and adhere to successful, reward-based, zero-tolerance bullying prevention programs; and she calls for blame-free cooperation between parents and schools. While less prescriptive than other books on the topic, very useful FAQs are included, as are resource lists for readers. Masterfully written, Bazelon’s book will increase understanding, awareness, and action. Agent: Elyse Cheney, Elyse Cheney Literary Associates. (Feb.)
Required reading for banishing bullying
When Monique McClain entered seventh grade in Middletown, Connecticut, she encountered taunts, slurs and insults and eventually physical aggression from her classmates. In the eighth grade in upstate New York, Jacob Lasher endured physical and verbal attacks for over a year because he is gay. In a highly publicized case, Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old student at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts, committed suicide after enduring online and in-person taunts and physical attacks at the hands of several of her fellow students, including Flannery Mullins, who later faced criminal charges in Prince’s death.
In her absorbing book, Sticks and Stones, Slate’s senior editor Emily Bazelon captivatingly narrates the stories of McClain, Lasher and Mullins in an attempt to reveal the various ways that bullying affects the victims, the bullies, the families and the communities involved in such cases. She points out that bullies taunt and attack others because they feel that their behavior will elevate their social status, either by distancing themselves from a former friend they now see as a loser or by impressing members of an in-crowd. “How can families and schools dismantle that kind of informal reward system?” she asks. More importantly, “How can you convince kids that they can do well by doing good?”
Bullying comes in all shapes and sizes, but it must satisfy three criteria, as Bazelon explains: “It has to be verbal or physical aggression that is repeated over time and that involves a power differential—one or more children lording their status over another.” She also offers profiles of five types of bullies: the bully in training; the kid who acts like a bully, not out malice but because he’s clueless; the kid who is both a bully and a victim; popular bullies whose subtle taunts create insecurities in victims; and the Facebook bully.
In the era of social media, when taunts and bullying can become more insidious and damaging, Bazelon thoughtfully urges a fresh consideration of the nature and definition of bullying. We must not overreact, and we must be careful to “separate bullying from teenage conflict that is not actually bullying—from drama.” In a courageous conclusion—courageous because it is idealistic and contrary to popular opinion—Bazelon advocates overcoming bullying by instilling character and empathy in our children, teaching them to see that people’s feelings are more important than status and that kindness should be a value that overrides all others.