The Atomic Wedgie

[Warning] This is going to be about a hot topic (maybe) and it may piss some people off.


On the subject of bullying. 

I was on Reddit (r/science) and was reading a post about a new anti-bullying program called KiVa that was apparently working very successfully in Finland. While reading it however, I started thinking about stories that I have heard among the child-having friends that I have regarding bullying. Some of the stories were horrific and some were just plain fucking stupid. I started to recall the posts and articles that I had read about bullying over the past year or so and again, some where terrible and some where just fucking stupid. So, I had adopted the position that bullying had become a buzz-word for any type of aggressive or negative action taken; however as I read this sub-reddit post more I started thinking that maybe we just don’t know what bullying is, so everything is bullying.

Now, since I don’t have kids and haven’t been sent 45 tons of anti-bullying literature home from their school; I had to do this the hard way. I had to use Google.

I simply searched “what isn’t bullying”.

One of the first sites I came across was pretty informative. It gave the “standards” of what bullying IS.  It also goes into how kids ( and some adults) do not know the difference between an accidental incident, a singular aggressive occurrence, and actual bullying. Instead, kids (and some adults) lump all of these things into the bullying category, because they simply don’t know the difference. The site gives this as a definition of bullying:

“bullying is recurring and deliberate abuse of power”

The two words there that I would suggest that you focus on are recurring and deliberate. Accidentally bumping into someone, not liking someone’s shirt or not inviting someone to your birthday party are not forms of bullying. They are accidents, opinions, and prerogatives. The site also gives a frame work of what bullying entails:

Intentional, Repetitive, Hurtful, Imbalance of Power

Now, to me, this is a little broad. I get repetitive and the imbalance of power. If it’s repetitive; then it’s intentional. So, that’s a little redundant and of course it’s going to be hurtful; it’s fucking bullying. So, I looked into the other sites and found that the US Government has actually defined bullying and its basically what I just said: An Imbalance of Power and Repetitive.

Now this is where I get confused. We have a definition of bullying. Then why are some schools, students, teachers, parents, and even grown adults confused about what bullying is or how it occurrs? Yes, the media has hyped the subject and created a lot of this; however it still confuses me. What really confuses me is how this still happens and why people are still amazed by it.

For example, while some bullying is physical and easy to recognize, bullying can also occur quietly and covertly, through gossip or on a smart phone or the internet, causing emotional damage.


This is the one form of bullying (Cyber Bullying)  that I hold a great disdain for. Parents hand their kids these pieces of technology. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops that connect to the internet. Let me explain something to you, and why this is a fucking horrible thing to do to your children.

Internet (noun): The global communication network that allows almost all computers worldwide to connect and exchange information.

World Wide Web (noun): a vast network of linked hypertext files, stored on computers throughout the world, that can provide a computer user with information on a huge variety of subjects.

OK, so you basically just handed little Bobby or Little Jenny a portal to any where and anyone on the entire planet. They can talk to anyone, or do anything on the Internet right along with the 3.17 billion other internet users. Do you trust the 3.17 billion other people on this planet with your kids? (Honestly, I believe that tablets, smartphones and laptops are like cars: when the kid is 16 they can have one if they are responsible enough to have one and there’s going to be some ground rules about it’s ownership) Now, I am sure that there are some parents that are IT professionals and have black listed URLs , have child monitoring software installed, have disabled the WiFi on the kids tablet, have disabled the cameras on everything and have taken every precaution to make sure their child is absolutely safe online. Good for you. However, the other 75 – 80% of the parents (even the ones that are “tech savvy”) probably haven’t (It’s more than blocking the porn sites, people). Also, it’s not only parents that don’t truly understand how the Internet works. Kids don’t understand it either, even though you think that they do. They think that the internet is just Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Minecraft. They do not contemplate that if they post something online, it can be seen by thousands millions BILLIONS of people and they can re-post, share and also leave negative comments on it. Be it  a Facebook post or a YouTube video, it’s all fair game and it’s all out there for the masses. That  tweet you thought only went to your followers (all 583 of them) or the post on your friends wall that you thought only they would see?  Nope, it was seen by everyone and if they didn’t like what you posted/tweeted; that turns into a shit-storm of negativity that is repetitive, and there is definitely and imbalance of power (since it’s the world vs. one person) and can easily turn into a case of cyber bullying that was completely unintentional. The other problem is, you can’t trace all the attackers, they are faceless (usually) and it’s an ongoing assault that occurs 24/7. So, now there is a broken hearted kid somewhere that is deep into depression because the comments keep coming and coming and they are never going to stop. So, in my opinion, you have to educate your kids on how the Internet works. You have to educate them on how to deal with cyber-bullies and trolls. You have to be smarter than them about the technology you just gave them, which means you have to be educated about how it and the Internet works. Out of all of the bullying stories that I hear, these piss me off the most because the outcome usually could have been prevented with a little time & education. It’s that simple.

OK, so now we understand what bullying is (and I went on a light tirade about cyber bullying) what ISN’T bullying?  I figured I got a great definition of what bullying is by searching for “what isn’t bullying” so I applied the same principle but in reverse.

I came across a site that pretty much took us back to the idea that we don’t know what bullying is. It’s like this site knows what it is, but isn’t quite sure.

It is intentional… but there is some controversy with this statement as some assert that not all bullying behavior is done with intent or that the individual bullying realizes that their behavior is hurting another individual.

So, subconscious bullying? A bully sleeper agent? Or does this go back to the idea of any negative action is bullying and, with this statement, the person that is offending with the negative action just needs to be taught that negative actions are bad because that’s bullying.  There was also this bit about the repetitive part of the bully frame work.

… the reality is that bullying can be circumstantial or chronic. It might be the result of a single situation…or it might be behavior that has been directed at the individual for a long period of time.

A single situation? So, if there is a one time occurrence of a negative action we are saying that is bullying? Now, we are getting into the area of “too much”. Simply because, if a child expresses a negative action (physical, verbal, or emotional) at another child one time and then never expresses anything to that child again, then it’s not bullying. If a child slips and falls face first into his lunch tray and the class laughs at him, but treats him no differently the next day, this is not bullying. If a kid expresses a negative opinion about something that another child holds dear while having a conversation, this is not bullying. If anything this way of thinking is bullying. Its repetitive (constantly trying to enforce a  illogical way of thought every time the subject comes up) and it’s an imbalance of power (adults vs. kids). It reminds me of indoctrination.

Students often describe bullying as when “someone makes you feel less about who you are as a person.”

I read this as “If your feelings were hurt, then you were bullied” and that to me is completely wrong. If a child is playing with a toy plane, and another child wants to play with the toy plane; then when the kid with the plane tells the other kid “no” is he a bully for not handing over his toy plane to the other kid?  This to me leads to a if I don’t get my way, then I was bullied way of thinking and that isn’t a good mentality to have or promote. I would think negative re-enforcement for having an opinion, choosing who to invite to a party, setting a boundry, or expressing an emotion would make me feel less about who I am as a person or like I was living in Orwell’s 1984.  Again, this just feels like indoctrination to me.

(Source on all above quotes:

So, again, we have a definition of bullying. Matter of fact, the father of anti-bullying programs, Dan Orweus,  even defined bullying for us:

“A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.”

However, schools and school administrators apparently don’t know really what it is, plus students apparently don’t really know what it is. A study in Tennessee schools between 2012-2013 was done to see how many of the reported cases of bullying were actually bullying. 27% (actually 27.5%, apparently they rounded down vs rounding up to 28%) of the cases were not bullying.

…it shows that 27% of reported cases were found not to be real examples of bullying …we have not defined bullying in the best way for our young children to understand?

Now, here’s the thing. In the maybe one hour of research that I did, I now know what bullying is. If you read this, you should now know what bullying is. So, if it doesn’t really take that much time and effort to define and understand what bullying is; then why can’t schools do it? Why can’t parents do it? Why can we not teach kids what it is? I think if parents would teach kids when they are being bullied, if parents could identify the behavior of a bully in their child or another child, and if parents took better precautions with technology and the internet; then there wouldn’t be a need for campaigns, legislation, and this post.

It just takes time and effort.



  1. Ronit Baras · February 15, 2016

    HI Starkey,

    I wish your suggestions for parents about being more mindful about bullying and technology would have been easy to implement.

    The discussion about bullying is very philosophical and has lots of cultural history. I work with parents for 30 years, most of them don’t even understand why we need to define it and how to use negative examples, just like you did (Brilliantly) in your article, to question the definition.

    No definition covers all aspects of bullying. Bullying is bullying even if the person can protect him/herself and in many cases, we could say that the bullying act is a defense mechanism. Yes, some people feel they need to protect themselves repetitively. The bully feels weak for some reason ( that usually has nothing to do with the victim) and he/she uses some point of advantage to “shrink” the other person.
    This gets us into the discussion about who is in charge of our actions, the conscious or the subconscious mind?
    Very deep but complicated discussion.

    I do think the whole things received lots of media attention and got out of proportion. In our society, there is less bullying now than ever.
    Because in the past, bullying was accepted. Parents bullied their kids, husbands bullied their wives, bosses bullied their workers, teachers bullied their students, white bullied blacks. It had cultural justification for bullying and today we don’t have more bullying but we are more aware and willing ( well , not everyone) to talk about it, question our behavior and what we did in the past. The same media, that is “bullying” us by using its power to take advantage of our “weaknesses” is the media helping us facilitate the discussion.
    MMM… double sword…

    Cyber bullying is just a trendy discussion topic. I totally agree with you about the attitude in media towards it.Expose your kids to all sick people on the internet and complain about them, not about your weakness in making sure you monitor who they hang around with.
    Complaining is easy!

    People need to stop talking about stopping bullying. We are talking about bullying acts and they are done by people, weak people. We don’t need to stop bullying. We need to help bullies. So the focus should be on strengthening people, young people, so they never have the need to bully others in order to feel good about themselves.

    Education is the key to changing a bullying society. When I say education I don’t mean this place kids go to for 13 years of their lives. I mean give them something more than knowledge and information. I mean give them emotional stamina, values, morals, skills, teach them to question, yes, even question you, develop their critical thinking and not just their ability to gather information. If kids’ emotional intelligence will be high, we will be able to shrink bullying in our society.I work with many parents and teaches and they always say that they “have never learned those things at school”. It is not their fault, no one taught them.

    We require a mind shift from sending kids to school to gather knowledge ( most of it they will never use) to giving them emotional power. We gave kids this small computers in the palm of their hands. They can use it to get all the information known to man. The emotional knowledge of relating to others, it is our responsibility to give. This power can never be used in vain.

    Love your writing!
    Ronit Baras


    • Starkey · February 16, 2016

      Hello! Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post. I have to say that after reading it, I was amazed with the time and effort you must have put into reading it to make such an analytical comment. I greatly appreciate it. I also like that this opens a discussion (*Note discussion, not argument) on the subject.

      So, here we go:

      Implementation is never easy. As an IT professional I can attest to that; however it can be done, just not easily. (It’s actually the most difficult part of the process of development) Because the media has drawn attention to bullying, albeit some negative attention, it has developed awareness and that is definitely a good thing. Because school officials, teachers, and parents are aware, the rates have dropped, which again is awesome; however, again, some execute the implementation of their programs poorly.

      I agree, that a definition will not cover all aspects of a complicated subject such as bullying, because a definition is just that, definite. I feel that if we look at the aspects of repetitive & imbalance of power as a frame work vs. a definition, then we have something that can be more suitable and applicable to the subject of bullying in most if not all aspects because it can be built on. I do have a disagreement with you on the point of “Bullying is bullying even if the person can protect him/herself” to a point based on my experiences growing up. I was a Dungeons & Dragons playing, comic book reading, thespian society member geek in high school; however I was also 6′ tall and about 250 lbs. When a bully approached me and attempted to assault me (physically, verbally..,etc..) , they discovered that there was not an imbalance of power and there was never any repetition after the first attempt. While there was an “attempted bullying”, it just ended up being a fight. While these incidents weren’t that often, I wouldn’t consider them bullying (even thought that may have been the intent), but just negative altercations which occur in life.

      Maybe it was because those people where trying to impress their friends and gain social ground. Maybe it was because they needed an ego boost and wanted to try to “take our the biggest guy in the yard” or maybe it was just because that person was just an asshole. Either way, I believe that we choose our actions. Even as someone with bipolar disorder that is prone to impulsive actions, I am responsible for the action that I take. It took quite a bit of therapy to learn how to control my manic impulses (and finding the right medication), but it can be done. Because ultimately, the conscious is in control. If the subconscious (or unconscious) mind is in total control of that person’s direct actions, and they are acting on some type of “auto pilot” ,then being a bully is the least of their problems. As you said, it’s definitely a deep and complicated discussion and honestly, they only psychology I know is what I have picked up from being in therapy for so many years.

      I do agree with you on everything else and honestly love this entire comment, bullying has been historically accepted, if not celebrated to a degree, and the solution was always to teach the victim to fight back. Teach the weak kid to “not be such a pussy” and clobber the bully on the playground, making the weak kid the hero (and now possibly the new bully). We never examined what happened to the bully when he went home to his parents, or what his home life was like in the first place. If part of the frame work of bullying is an imbalance of power, we have to bring the power in balance. We do need to help the bully and find out why they feel the need to pick on the small and weak. We need to empower the victims so they don’t feel defenseless and weak. I feel that if the power is balanced, the bullying cycle will be broken because there wont be a need to bully. It’s that simple, but again implementation.

      I loved this line: “I mean give them something more than knowledge and information. I mean give them emotional stamina, values, morals, skills, teach them to question, yes, even question you, develop their critical thinking and not just their ability to gather information.” When I read it I actually said “fuck yeah!” out loud. Simply because you are absolutely right. When I went through the public school system we basically did what I call “regurgitation education”. Learn a bit about a subject, and throw it back up on paper. That was it. I cant count the times that I have said “[I] have never learned those things at school” after I graduated. I had to teach them to myself, or be taught them in therapy.

      Yes, most of the knowledge taught in school you will never use (except geometry, and basic algebra you subconsciously use it more than you think). I actually wrote a post on this regarding the free school movement and how that the public school system needs an overhaul. When it comes to kids and their emotions and feelings, a lot of parents do not emotionally empower their kids (mine didn’t); however some parents I feel over emotionally empower their kids and this can be just as damaging in their child hood and their adult life. Again, it’s that balance of power that is hard to implement.

      On the topic of cyber bullying. It is a very hot topic in the media and like traditional bullying, there is now an awareness about it. I believe this is the form of bullying that is probably the most dangerous and the most misunderstood by kids, parents and teachers. Simply because of the involvement of technology and the fact that it requires education on all parts, the kids, the parents and the teachers. The first thing I believe that parents need to understand, they need to believe, is that these pieces of technology are not toys. This isn’t a game boy you are handing your child. The other thing is what we say in the IT industry as RTFM: Read The Fucking Manual. You have to know how to operate your child’s technology better than your child. You have to be the ones that are the IT administrator as well as the parent over your kids electronics. Because, like I said, they are gateways to the world and 3.17 billion other people. The main difference between traditional bullying and cyber bullying is that traditional bullying is your kid vs. another kid where cyber bullying is your kid vs. 3.17 billion other potential bullies that do not sleep and do not have names or faces. They aren’t “fixable” like what we have discussed. The only way to not be cyber bullied is prevention and education not only on the part of the child, but the parent as well. You can educate your child on how to not be a cyberbully, but not the rest of the planet. While there is education for adults/parents to protect their kids online, it almost appears that they seldom read it. Again, you have to RTFM to keep your kids from falling into this. I know even with my friends kids, and my in-laws I have preached this gospel and most have listened and their kids have remained safe while online.

      Again, I thank you for this comment. It was wonderful to receive such an in-depth comment about my post and have a discussion about this topic. I loved what your site had to say on the subject and I hope that you continue to help kids and parents understand and cope with this issue. Thank you also for the compliments on my writing. Honestly, the fact that anyone reads these posts astounds me.

      Best regards,

      Jeff Starkey


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s