“When Emily Bazelon was in eighth grade, her friends fired her. Now a senior editor for Slate, Bazelon writes in her new book, Sticks and Stones: “Two and a half decades later, I can say that wryly: it happened to plenty of people, and look at us now, right? We survived. But at the time, in that moment, it was impossible to have that kind of perspective.”
In Sticks and Stones, Bazelon explores teen bullying, what it is and what it isn’t, and how the rise of the Internet and social media make the experience more challenging.
“It really can make bullying feel like it’s 24/7,” Bazelon tells Fresh Air’sTerry Gross. Comparing it with her own experience as a young teenager, she says that “when I got home from school, there was a break. I didn’t have to deal with [my friends] directly, and I could sort of put myself back together in the afternoon and evening. Whereas now when you come home if you’re a victim of bullying, you’re likely to see this continue on a social media site or via texting.”
For parents who grew up without the Internet, understanding the technology that is an integral aspect of today’s kid culture is a struggle, she says. Her question regarding that generational gulf informs the book. A parent herself, Bazelon says that she wanted to think about what limits made sense to set as her children entered the online world.
To complicate matters further, there is the issue of what role schools should play in a teen’s digital life.
“We don’t make schools responsible for all the stuff that kids do at the movies or on the beach or walking down the street,” Bazelon says, “and yet if there’s a cruel thread on Facebook or Twitter or a bunch of mean harassing texts go around, it’s very typical for parents to bring those into the school and ask for help because they naturally feel that since it’s among students, the school should have some role. I think it’s clear that schools can help kids and parents talk through these situations. What I think is much trickier is whether they can really take on the role of punishing, and … are schools really set up to police all this behavior, and do we really want them to play that role?”