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Not a New Phenomenon: The History of Bullying and its Effect on the College Experience Today

By Katheryn Rivas*

Although the coverage of bullying in schools has been widespread as of late, bullying is not a new phenomenon in human history. Texts as far back as the Bible cite instances of bullying and violence. Those instances, however, were between adults. Why is it that today children and young adults seem to be so affected by the results of a social climate that tolerates this sort of behavior? Is bullying among young people, especially within an academic context, new?

According to recent articles, there are actually many cited instances within popular culture of bullying among young people. Many literary works, for example, portray instances of bullying to the extent that it seems to have been commonplace as far back as the 1800’s. Works like Oliver Twist (1838), Lord of the Flies (1954) and The Outsiders (1967) definitely ring true when it comes to the things we have been seeing in the news lately about bullying in school.

This is also not confined to students in grade school or junior high. There have been many deaths and violent occurrences linked to bullying in colleges. In fact, researchers are now starting to take a closer look at the issue. "We got into looking at college students because there are studies on elementary, junior high, high school and the workplace," said Christine MacDonald, professor of educational and school psychology at Indiana State University. "There's nothing on colleges. It doesn't just stop when they turn 18," she said.

MacDonald’s research found that, out of the college students surveyed in her study, 15 percent reported having been bullied. This is a significant amount, especially considering the fact that many college students may not accurately report such occurrences.

What makes matters worse for modern students, though, is the propensity to bully peers behind the thin veil of a cyber profile. 22 percent of the students MacDonald surveyed reported being cyberbullied. This is almost a fourth of the entire student population surveyed. In fact, 38 percent knew someone who had been cyberbullied. Most of the bullying took place via social networking sites or text messages, but email and instant message bullying also occurred.

42 percent of students surveyed by MacDonald’s team also reported seeing someone being bullied by another student, and a whopping 15 percent reported seeing a student bullied by a professor.

According to MacDonald, most of the students who reported bullying were somehow “different” than the student majority, but there was not enough data to single out specifics on ethnicity or sexual orientation.

(*) This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes for online universities blog. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: katherynrivas87 AT gmail DOT com.

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