Bullying and Children

broken-glasses-1-1316764There are many different forms of bullying that can occur. These include physical, verbal, sexual, cyber (email, text, websites, chat rooms, etc.), interpersonal (rumors, refusing to talk to someone, excluding from social group, etc.), and property damage/theft. Bullying frequently happens in schools, and is suggested to be the most common form of violence in our society (NASP website). 

 

Many of us have either seen, engaged in, or been a target of bullying. Looking back at my years growing up, I can remember times when I was a target of a bully and how helpless and alone I felt. I also can remember times when I witnessed bullying incidents. The NASP website reported that between 15% and 30% of students are either bullies or victims. When discussing bullying with others, I often hear the comments stating that bullying is “not as common or harmful as people say it is”, or they say that it is a “normal” part of growing up or a “rite of passage” that can make us stronger as individuals. These feel like excuses to make us feel better about not supporting change. The NASP Center website suggested that 25% of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying or putdowns and intervene in about 4% of bullying incidents. This kind of thinking is extremely harmful. Research has demonstrated time and again that bullying is not a normal childhood activity, and instead has many damaging effects for the individuals who experience bullying. Research also suggests that bullying is very harmful in both the short and long-term, and impacts can be on not only the target of bullying, but the bully themselves.

The target of bullying is said to have a “loss” experience because of the bullying. For some, this is a loss of safety, whereas others it is a loss of self-esteem. Other targets experience a loss of belonging or a loss of control over their own life. They are in continual fear of when the next attack will occur. In addition, there are many possible negative physical effects that bullying can have on the target. This may include stomach aches, weight loss or gain, a drop in their grades, behavioral issues, sexual activity, physical aggression, suicidality, or homicidality. The National Education Association estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students, and 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school. Emotional impacts that bullying can take include feelings of alienation, insecurity, depression, fear, low self-esteem, withdrawal, anger, aggression, or vengefulness. I have also heard the argument that the targets of bullying are at fault, and “they deserve it” for “being different.” It seems to me that everyone is different in one way or another, so what gives us the right to belittle and bully someone else because they seem to be “different” from us?

Bullying not only negatively impacts the target, but the bully themselves can have major negative consequences for their actions. These individuals learn that using force and threats are the best ways to get what they want. Demonstrating more power and control over others is the means that they have learned to obtain things. This pattern of behavior can be detrimental to their future. Research has suggested that children who are identified as bullies by age 8 are six times more likely to be convicted of a crime by the age of 24, and 60% of 6th to 9th grade children identified as bullies have at least one criminal conviction by age 24 (referenced from Brewster & Railsback, 2001). The National Association of School Psychologists reported that bullies are five times more likely to end up with a serious criminal record by the age of 30. The National Crime Prevention Council suggests that these individuals are more likely to smoke and drink – as adolescents and do poorly in school (NCPC website).

Presented with these statistics, it is clear that bullying is very harmful to everyone involved. The questions are, “What can I do? How can I help?” First and most importantly, talk with your child. Whether they are being bullied or they are the bully, talking with them is the first step towards changing the situation. For the child being bullied, let them know that you are open to discussing these issues, and that you are not going to belittle them and judge them like the bullies. They need to feel like they have a voice in how the situation is handled. If your child is the bully, don’t condone their behavior and discuss with them how their behavior is considered to be bullying. Encourage them in developing empathy toward others and review the consequences for their behaviors (disciplinary and relationship consequences). Demonstrate and reinforce behaviors that are respectful and help them express themselves in more positive ways.

Secondly, contact the school and set up a meeting either with your child’s teacher or a counselor. During this meeting, if your child is being bullied it is important to develop a plan for keeping your child safe at the more vulnerable times, including class breaks, lunch, and recess. Find out the types of resources the school has that are available options for your child as well. If your child is engaging in bullying behavior, it is important to develop a plan for change during this meeting. School consequences may include verbal and/or written warnings, attending meetings for conflict resolution and problem solving skill development, filed into permanent record, suspension, or expulsion. It is important to intervene as early in this behavior as possible, before this behavior becomes normal for the child. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to change. If you suspect that bullying is occurring, investigate and help to make change. Our children rely on us to set the example, and we must step up to the plate. Be a good role-model for your children. Be their advocate when they need it and help them feel like they are not alone.

 

Useful resources that can be used by parents, children, and professionals:

http://www.makebeatsnotbeatdowns.org

-Information and statistics related to bullying

www.naspcenter.org/factsheets/bullying_fs.html

-Information and statistics related to bullying

http://stopbullyingnow.gov/kids

-Information and statistics related to bullying, and suggestions for bully-free programs

http://www.nea.org/home/neabullyfree.html

-Information and statistics related to bullying, and suggestions for bully-free programs

http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/prevention.of.bullying.pdf

-School wide prevention of bullying suggestions

http://stopbullying.gov

– Has brief videos for kids, games, etc.

http://kidshealth.org

-Information and activities for parents and children

http://pbskids.org

– Has an interactive game about bullying and other issues that may arise for kids.

http://pbskids.org/itsmylife/friends/bullies/

– Has information, games, advice, and blogs on bullying and other issues that may arise for kids.

http://www.ncpc.org/topics/bullying/what-parents-can-do

-National Crime Prevention Council

 

References:

Brewster, C., & Railsback, J. (2001) Supporting beginning teachers: How administrators, teachers, and policymakers can help new teachers succeed [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/prevention.of.bullying.pdf

National Crime Prevention Council. (2012). General format. Retrieved from http://www.ncpc.org/topics/bullying/what-parents-can-do

National Education Association. (2012). General format. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/home/neabullyfree.html

 

Edited By: Lindsey Traudt, LCPC

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