Social bullying is learned in a number of ways, one of which it turns out is from children’s television. A new research study titled “Mean on the Screen: Social Aggression in Programs Popular With Children,” discovered that the TV shows most popular with young children, ages 2-11, were rife with incidences involving social aggression.
Parents who assume that the lack of violence in television programs their child views means no parental guidance is needed are in for an unpleasant surprise. Because social aggression is more subtle than physical aggression, it is more easily imitated and less noticeable by parents.
The chances to learn social aggression occur, on average, about once every four minutes in children’s programming. Making parents aware of this can present them with the opportunity to point out poor behavior in television characters as they watch with their children. Additionally, children can be taught methods for managing emotions in a positive manner.
Discussing tactics for coping with bullying can come up while watching TV characters endure name-calling, which, according to the study, accounted for 25 percent of the verbal bullying. Other forms of bullying, and how to handle them, can be thrashed out as well. Talking about possible conflict management techniques available to the characters in their favorite television programs can translate to the child’s own experience. A conflict video can help in this regard as well.
Unlike in real life, talking behind another’s back is less likely to occur on programs viewed by children. Instead, social bullying is almost exclusively a face-to-face confrontation, occurring 86 percent of the time as opposed to an only 14 percent incidence of indirect bullying.
On television, social aggressors are attractive; their actions appear incidental, they neither benefit nor suffer consequences for their behavior. This makes the behavior appear unimportant and does not show the painful affects the bullying has on the victim or the cause for the behavior. Child who are on either the receiving or the delivery end of social aggression may need anger management lessons to break the cycle of bullying.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.