Most of us can remember the mean girls from our adolescence, and with the news we read today, it's not hard to think that bullying has taken a turn for the worse. However, statistics show the occurrence of violent injury by and toward girls is plummeting. Today's teens might not be beating each other up, but their actions have violent consequences as demonstrated by the high-profile suicide of Phoebe Prince, a bullied freshman at Massachusetts' South Hadley High School.
This week, prosecutors brought unprecedented charges against students who bullied 15-year-old Phoebe so much that she committed suicide in January. Her friends and family allege that the students repeatedly harassed Phoebe at school and with technology by sending hurtful texts and talking trash on Facebook. Her fellow students allegedly threatened her verbally and physically because she moved from Ireland and was involved briefly with guys whom other girls at the school liked. Now those teens have been charged with the felony of violation of civil rights with bodily injury resulting, and two young men also have been charged with statutory rape, presumably for having otherwise consensual sex with Phoebe.
Some spectators argue such bullying isn't confined to South Hadley High, but rather a phenomenon taking over US schools. Unlike bullies of days gone by, modern kids have technology at their disposal. The threat of digital abuse, including sexting, online cruelty, and digital disrespect, prompted MTV to launch a multiyear initiative to empower youth to it. As violence caused by young women goes down, youth are increasingly able to harm each other from afar. While I doubt young people will ever stop picking on each other, maybe the threat of serious consequences, mixed with some preventative action, can curtail the impact of Bullying 2.0.