In the News: An eleven-year-old boy hung himself after repeatedly being bullied and tormented at school. The victim was a good student who participated in football, Boy Scouts, and was a very active member of his church and community. Bullies at his school constantly called him “gay”, even though a child his age hardly has a concept of their own sexuality. His parents repeatedly pleaded with school officials to take action and stop the bullying, but unfortunately they failed to prevent this tragic and preventable death.
Bullying is a universal problem and most people have been exposed to it in some way. It is important for people to understand both how prevalent an issue bullying is and how damaging it can be.
- One in three of all teens report being bullied at school
- Over 70% of young people report witnessing bullying
- Only 1/3 of bully victims report the bullying to someone
Bullying can be difficult to prevent, because the majority of bullying occurs when teachers, coaches, counselors, and other authority figures are not around. Most bullies will wait for these lapses in supervision. Following a few simple steps can greatly reduce bullying within an organization.
Talk Openly About Bullying
Inform all children of the organization’s stance on bullying and the potential repercussions of those caught bullying. Openly discussing bullying can make bullies afraid of the consequences. Also, victims and bystanders will be less afraid to come forward and report bullying if they know someone will take their concerns seriously.
Deal With Bullying Consistently
Treat every situation involving bullying the same. Regardless of who is bullying, or being bullied, it is important to respond the same. However, individuals who bully repeatedly need to be disciplined progressively. This means a child who is repeatedly caught bullying needs to be disciplined more severely each subsequent time.
Make all staff aware of both the dangers and prevalence of bullying as well as how to recognize bullying. Staff should also be trained on how to recognize potential victims of bullying and be trained to report it immediately to their supervisor. They should also be trained on how to respond to bullying when they catch bullies in the act.
Parents play an integral part in bullying prevention, whether they are the parents of bullies or victims. The parents of bullies need to be aware of their child’s behavior so they can discuss the dangers of bullying with them, as well as discipline them when appropriate. The parents of victims need to be aware when their child is bullied so they can help them cope with whatever abuse they received.
Bullying takes many forms, including: physical abuse, verbal abuse, threats, harassment, taunts, rumors, exclusion, and much more. Bullying is a much more complicated problem than most people realize. Identifying bullies can be nearly impossible since there is no standard mold for what bullies look and act like. It is easier, however, to identify the victims and potential victims of bullying. Bullies typically target other children who are different in some way. Keeping track of these children can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a victim. Bullies will target children for a variety of reasons including some of the following:
- Physical Differences: Height, weight, age, race, and gender are common sources of bullying. Identifying children who posses any characteristics that differ greatly from other children may help identify potential bullying targets.
- Behavioral Differences: Children who act differently from the majority of children often become the targets of bullying as well. These characteristics include poor social skills, timid personalities, particularly good or bad in school, and much more. These differences may be more difficult to spot than physical differences, but they are still extremely common causes for bullying.
- Socio-Economic Differences: Especially poor or wealthy children may also be singled out and bullied. This can go both ways depending on the socio-economic situation of the group. Whoever is in the minority will typically be the victim.
- Cultural Differences: Religion, sexual orientation, and many other cultural aspects can also be a cause for bullying. Identifying children of unique cultural backgrounds can help staff keep a closer eye on them and ensure their backgrounds don’t become a source of bullying.
There are also several myths regarding bullying. Understanding the complex nature of bullying will make it easier to identify bullies and their victims.
Bully Myth #1: Only boys bully
Many people wrongly believe that only boys bully. This belief is driven by the fact that boys are far more likely to bully physically, which is much easier to identify. Statistics, however, show that girls are more likely to bully than boys. The difference is the majority of bullying perpetrated by boys is physical, while girls typically bully verbally or emotionally. Emotional bullying is much harder to catch and can be much more damaging to the victim.
Bully Myth #2: Ignoring bullies makes them go away
Bullies can be unrelenting. They often go after victims until something, like an authority figure, puts a stop to it. Bullies attempt to wear down their victims. Also, with electronic communication steadily increasing, bullies can target their victims anywhere with cyber bullying.
Bully Myth #3: Kids should learn to handle bullies themselves
Many people dismiss bullying and think it is best to let kids sort it out themselves. This attitude is dangerous, and can often lead to even more extreme confrontations between bullies and victims. Most kids are unprepared to deal with bullying effectively, but they fear going to an authority figure out of fear of being labeled a tattle-tail.
Bully Myth #4: Bullying is just part of being a kid
Some people think bullying is just a part of growing up and poses no real threat to children. Adults who maintain this attitude were most likely never a victim of serious bullying growing up and don’t understand how damaging it can be. As seen in the story above, bullying can result in serious pain and suffering.