Girls' violence is rising in schools as the effects of cyber-bullying and reality television turn them into "Barbie Bitches", experts say.
Principals say violence carried out by girls - physical and emotional - has increased far more than that of boys in recent years.
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. But the way violence is dished out appears to be changing. Experts point to a new gang-like mentality among schoolgirls whereby a popular "queen bee" uses friends to bully or hurt others to reinforce her power.
Secondary Principals' Association president Peter Gall said schools were seeing not only more overt physical violence by girls, but a big increase in cyber-bullying - sending nasty text messages and e-mails, or putting humiliating images or words on the Internet.
Reality TV shows based on "shaming and bullying" were 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."
Violence and bullying can have lasting psychological effects on victims, leading to poor educational achievement, self-harm and inter-generational violence.
Education Minister Chris Carter is poised to announce plans to stamp out bullying and improve pupil safety. They are tipped to be part of an increase in the Education Review Office's scrutiny of schools.
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. "It's going after a girl's reputation."
The "Barbie Bitches" syndrome had compounded violence among girls, as they tried balancing desires to be attractive with being tough and mean.
Unlike boys, girls had not learnt to "fight fair", so their aggression could boil over into physical violence or bullying tactics.
Tasman police district youth services coordinator Ross Lienert said police were seeing more defiance in girls and premeditated violence aligned with a gang mentality.
"You've got a queen bee situation where that person asks other girls to try and keep her in a position of power. They will use other girls to deal with any threats - hence the premeditation and ongoing nature of it."
Mr Lienert said girls who committed violence had often suffered abuse or trauma from parents, caregivers or friends.
They might use physical violence, threats or other bullying tactics on victims.
Police youth services national manager Bill Harrison said violent crime had increased across all age groups, though this might reflect more reporting by victims. "Itwill be a concern for the general public.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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