Girls’ violence in schools on the rise

NZ Herald May 24, 2008

Reality TV and text messaging are being blamed for a big increase in girls’ violence in the school playground. Education Ministry figures show a 41 per cent increase in girls being stood down, suspended or kicked out of school for assaults between 2002 and 2006, The Dominion Post reported today. But the way violence was meted out appeared to be changing.

Secondary Principals’ Association president Peter Gall told the paper schools were seeing not only more overt physical violence by girls, but a big increase in cyber-bullying – sending nasty text messages and emails, or putting humiliating images or words on the internet. Reality TV shows based on “shaming and bullying” were also encouraging girls in particular to respond aggressively to threats or playground relationship problems. “They prioritise all the sorts of behaviours we are desperately trying to prevent.”

Social anthropologist Donna Swift, who runs a girls’ violence intervention programme, said teenage girls often used “covert” violence and aggression, such as calling others “sluts” and “hos” in group text messages sent to hundreds of others. The “Barbie Bitches” syndrome had compounded violence among girls, as they tried balancing desires to be attractive with being tough and mean.