It's often said that children can be cruel, and bullying has been around since time immemorial. But just because it's common doesn't mean it should be normalized. Historically, bullying has been written off as "kids being kids," or conceptualized as a necessary hardship that helps build character. In reality, it can cause serious damage. Victims of bullying can develop depression and anxiety, begin engaging in self-harming behaviors, and are at greater risk of substance abuse. It can take years for people to overcome the damage that childhood bullying can cause.
A school-wide bullying awareness program is a great way to draw attention to the problem, helping educate students about what to do if they're bullied or if they witness someone else being bullied. This can include an anonymous tip line, educational resources, and other measures to strongly discourage bullying and encourage kids to speak up.
1) Make Sure Children Understand What Constitutes Bullying
"Bullying" can be broadly defined as unwarranted aggressive behavior between children or teenagers, reflecting a real or perceived power imbalance. This behavior is generally repeated over time, and can be physical, verbal, or relational. The repetition, aggression, and power issues are central to bullying. Sometimes victims are singled out because they’re different, or because they're perceived as weak. At other times, it's essentially "random" from an outsider's perspective.
2) Acknowledge The Different Kinds of Bullying
Bullying isn't just about physical violence, which is often how it's characterized in media. Some children do bully others by hitting, punching, or otherwise attacking them, but this isn't the only way that aggression can manifest.
Today, with the rise of "zero tolerance policies" and greater general awareness of physically violent bullying, it's probably less common than it was thirty years ago. But verbal aggression is also a form of bullying. Children that tease, name-call, taunt, or threaten other children are engaging in bullying behavior.
There's also "social bullying." This is often called “relational aggression” when it’s observed in girls, especially preteens and teenagers. This includes passive-aggressive and indirect things like leaving someone out, telling other people not to be friends with the victim, embarrassing or humiliating someone in public, and spreading malicious rumors. This isn't always immediately recognized as bullying, either by authority figures or by the victims. It’s quite subtle, and it's very difficult for adults to catch on.
Cyberbullying is arguably a subset of social and verbal bullying, but today, it's more common than ever. It’s been around since at least the early to mid-2000s, when instant messaging was popular and youth began to use the internet regularly. Today, it's still rampant, and because it happens off of school property, it can be difficult to address. This kind of bullying offers no respite to the victim. They can be exposed to it 24/7, and it's difficult to escape. Cyberbullying messages and social media posts can be created anonymously, complicating the issue of culpability. Sometimes it may be impossible to tell who's actually doing it. Studies have shown that victims of cyberbullying are more likely to abuse drugs, skip school, get poor grades, and develop mental and physical health problems.
3) Encourage Children to Empathize with Victims
Bullying is primarily a relationship issue. Children often engage in teasing, name-calling, and other minor bullying without quite realizing the harm they’re causing. It can be important to emphasize the way that bullying makes the victim feel.[click to continue...]
Being bullied at school is a threat to a child’s mental and physical health as well as their self-esteem and ability to learn. Their sense of security is threatened as one of the few places where they are supposed to feel safe is now fraught with fear and anxiety. In order to turn this around, children who are the victims of a bully need be able to regain some control over their life.
In the last few years, school bullying has turned from stealing someone’s lunch money, to harmful physical violence. This escalation in the severity of bullying calls for drastic measures on the part of school officials, police officers and parents.
The problem that officials and parents are facing is the reluctance of children to report a bully. It is suggested that this is due to a lack of confidence that the adult will intervene on the victims behalf. Other reasons cited for not reporting a bully included:
- A fear of retaliation, not just by the bully, but by his or her circle of friends
- Shame at their inability to protect themselves
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