Ask any child of any age where they are most likely to get bullied and the answer is almost always the school bus. Think about it. It’s the perfect venue for that form of torture. Kids of varying ages are virtually unsupervised except for a bus driver who is trying to focus on driving the kids home safely. The role of the bus driver is to deliver our kids to and from school safely, not to mediate conflicts and create harmony.
I’ve worked with hundreds of adolescents and they list the following as the most likely places where bullying occurs:
- On the school bus
- In the hallways of school while walking to a different classroom
- During recess
- In the lunch room
And what do these four places have in common? They are all places where there are big groups of kids who are also largely unsupervised. Yes, I am aware that there are teachers or other adults monitoring the lunch room, recess, and perhaps the hallways, but this appears to make little difference. The kids tell me that the supervising adults are not attuned or even paying attention to those moments when they are rejected from a lunch table, being called a hippo in the hallway, or even when they eat their lunch in the bathroom in order to avoid being seen eating alone in the lunch room.
Yes, we can teach our kids how to defend themselves against bullies. Yes, we can role play skills with our kids. We can teach them to toughen up. I am, however, of a different mind when it comes to this issue. I say shame on the schools for allowing the kids to be unmonitored so frequently. And, for goodness sake, who came up with the idea of having 13- and 18-year-olds riding the school bus together? Isn’t it our job not only to teach our kids social skills, but also to try to make their environments as safe as possible within reason?
About Barbara Greenberg, PhD
Barbara is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents. She is the co-author of Teenage as a Second Language-A Parents Guide to Becoming Bilingual with Jennifer Powell-Lunder PsyD and the co-creator of the website http://www.talkingteenage.com.