By Lydia Wang
During a book tour that included visits and interviews with Stephen Colbert, NPR, and Harvard School of Education, writer Emily Bazelon spoke to BB&N parents from all three campuses on March 5 about bullying, cyberbullying, and her new novel, Sticks and Stones.
“[Upper School Director Geoff] Theobald felt there are topics that impact teenagers, especially something like social media, which many parents don’t really know what to think about,” said Parents’ Association (PA) Upper School Assistant Vice President Mary Pforzheimer P’14. “I think [Bazelon] did a great job.”
Bazelon is a senior editor of blog Slate and a contributing writer at The New York Times, and has written pieces for The Atlantic, O Magazine, The Washington Post, and Mother Jones. Sticks and Stones, however, is her first book.
She began the evening by asking audience members to think back to their own childhoods and teen years, and recall particular moments when they witnessed bullying, experienced bullying, or were even bullies themselves. She then discussed the importance of limiting the definition of bullying, which she described as “verbal or physical abuse that is repeated over time that involves an imbalance of power, with one or more kids with more social power lording it over a more vulnerable kid.”
The rise of social media has made bullying harder to escape. “It really can make bullying feel like it’s 24/7,” Bazelon recently said in an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. “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.”
“[Bazelon] asked us whether we give the same level of positive reinforcement for our child’s small acts of kindness as we do for his or her academic or athletic successes,” said Ms. Pforzheimer. “I feel like maybe I haven’t been doing that myself, and I now want to let my kids know that kind, no matter how small, interactions are really valued in our family.”
Bazelon’s lecture was a part of a series of activities put together this year by the PA. According to PA Upper School Vice President Kim Noltemy P’13, ’14, the goal of the series has been to provide “both entertaining and educational events. Furthermore, it is another way for parents to get to know each other and build a strong school community.”
“I think we were all looking to hear how to inspire empathy for difference in students and ourselves, and to understand the students’ online and offline landscapes,” said Ms. Pforzheimer.
Ms. Noltemy felt the event was a success. “Many parents commented that Bazelon is a very engaging speaker, and this is a very important topic for the school community. We were pleased with the attendance.”