Bullying is a
problem that can derail a child’s schooling,
social life, and, most importantly, their emotional well being. It’s also an issue that has been made even
more pressing in recent years because of the increased use among children of
the Internet, cell phones, and other means of communication as tools to harass
each other. Adults may have a tendency to ignore bullying, to write it off as a
normal part of life that all kids have to go through. However, it’s a real problem with dangerous
consequences, and it should be dealt with accordingly.
is a behavior that can include any one of a whole range of actions that cause
physical or emotional pain, from spreading rumors to intentional exclusion to
physical abuse. Bullying prevention expert Dr. Ken Rigby
has a useful formulation:
= a desire to hurt + hurtful action + a power imbalance + (typically)
repetition + an unjust use of power + evident enjoyment by the aggressor and a
sense of being oppressed on the part of the victim.
Everyone wants to
believe that while sticks and stones may break our bones, words will never hurt
us. As teens and many children know, however, that’s not quite true. Words can be just as
harmful, if not more so, than physical abuse.
Bullying can be
subtle, and many children won’t tell their
parents or teachers about it out of fear of retribution or shame. Children may
also fear being blamed themselves or losing privileges if they report being
bullied. That’s why it’s important that parents, teachers, and other responsible adults are
constantly looking for bullying behaviors.
signs that a child is being bullied include:
- unexplained cuts or bruises
- damaged or missing clothing, books,
school supplies, or other belongings
- takes unnecessarily long routes to school
- suddenly loses interest in school work or
begins to perform poorly
- no longer wants to hang out with friends
- frequently complains of headaches or
stomach aches and asks to stay home sick
- loss of appetite
- trouble sleeping
- emotionally reticent
- appears moody or depressed or appears to
suffer from social anxiety and low self-esteem
- any unexplained change in behavior
Bullying has a
negative effect on everyone — the
bully, the target, the people who witness the bullying, and anyone connected. Stopbullying.gov, head of the Bullying Research Network Dr. Susan Swearer, and the Committee for Children point out some of the short- and
long-term effects of bullying.
- Although the statistics vary based on the
different methodologies used to study bullying, it’s commonly accepted that 75 percent of
school-age kids are affected by bullying at some point during
their school years.
- Kids who are identified as a bully by age
8 are six times more likely to be convicted of
a crime by the time they’re 24.
- 160,000 kids in the United States miss
school daily because of bullying.
- Targets of bullying suffer from headaches, stomach aches, depression, and eating disorders.
- Targets of bullying have a high incidence
of dropping out of school, self-mutilation,
substance abuse, suicide, and violence towards others.
- The U.S Secret Service found that from
1974 to 2000 there were 37 school shootings. Two-thirds of the shooters were
long-term bullied or harassed at school.
- Observers can
suffer the same physical symptoms as the targets. They get headaches and
stomach aches. They have school phobias and high levels of anxiety and feel
helpless and powerless. They also tend to have poor coping and problem-solving
Engage Your Child
The first thing
to do if you notice something’s wrong with your
child is to talk to them. The most important thing you can do for a bullied
child is to validate the situation. Pay attention to the child’s feelings and let him or her know you
care. You may not be able to solve all the problems for your child right away.
It’s essential is that you let them know
that you’re supportive.
Be a Role Model
Bullying is a
learned behavior. Children pick up antisocial behaviors like bullying from
adult role models, parents, teachers, and from media representation. A study done by Brigham Young University researchers found that there are an
average of 52 acts of relational aggression an hour on reality TV and 33 an
hour on regular TV shows. This type of general meanness rubs off on kids.
Teach your child
good social behavior from an early age. Being a positive role model can
influence potential bullies, targets, and bystanders. Your child is less likely
to enter damaging or hurtful relationships if their parent also avoids those
types of negative associations.
training and education is essential if bullying is to be stopped in our communities.
The U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services “Stop Bullying Now” campaign suggests that schools set aside 20 or
30 minutes of class time a week to discuss bullying with students. This gives
teachers time to talk openly to students about bullying and to get a feel for
what the bullying climate is in the school. It will also help children
understand what behaviors are considered bullying. School-wide assemblies on
the subject can also be helpful in bringing the issue out into the open.
important to educate school staff and other adults. They should understand the
nature of bullying and its effects, how to respond to bullying in the school,
and how to work with others in the community to prevent bullying.
Build a Consensus
Bullying is a
community problem and requires a community solution. Everybody has to be on
board to successfully stamp out bullying. This includes:
- bus drivers
- cafeteria workers
- school nurses
- after-school instructors
- the students themselves
If your child is
being bullied, it’s important that you don’t confront the bully or the bully’s parent yourself. It’s unlikely to be
productive and can even be dangerous. Work with the community. Teachers,
counselors, and administrators may have additional information and resources
that can help determine the appropriate course of action. Develop a community
strategy to address bullying.
Similar to the
need for a community effort is the need for a plan in how bullying is dealt
with. Every child should be treated equally. Emotional bullying should be
addressed in the same way as physical bullying.
In an effort to
reduce bullying, it’s essential to change the social climate of the school.
Written school policies should not only disallow bullying behavior, but also
make clear that students are expected to assist students who appear to be in
any kind of trouble. The rules should be clear and concise so that everyone can
understand them at a glance.
It’s important that the rules for bullying
are enforced consistently throughout the school. School staff needs to be able
to intervene immediately to stop bullying, and there should also be follow-up
meetings for both the bully and the target. The parents of affected students
should be involved when possible.
The Youth Voice Project surveyed 13,000 teens in 31 schools
across the United States and asked them to share their experiences with
bullying. The project uncovered the power of bystanders when it comes to
fighting bullying. Bystanders are the students who see or hear of their peers
bystanders often feel powerless to help. They think that stepping in may bring
the bully's attacks onto themselves or make them into social outcasts. But the
Youth Voice Project found that some sort of connection with a bystander helped
the victim cope with the situation. The victim felt better when a witness
approached them afterwards and acknowledged that what happened wasn’t okay.
It's essential to
empower bystanders to help. Schools should work to protect bystanders from
retaliation and help them understand that their silence can make bullies more
Work With the Bully
Don’t forget that the bully has his or her
own set of problems to deal with and also needs help from adults. Bullies often
engage in bullying behaviors out of a lack of empathy and trust or as a result
of problems at home.
need to recognize that their behavior is bullying. They then need to understand
that bullying will lead to negative consequences. They’re hurting themselves as
much as they’re hurting others., You can nip bullying behavior in the bud by
showing them that there are consequences to their actions.