Bullying is a form of aggression that comes in many different forms, but three main factors differentiate bullying from other types of abuse: 1) the behavior is intended to cause harm or distress, 2) it occurs repeatedly over time, and 3) there is an observed or perceived imbalance of power among the parties – often physical or psychological, but it can be manifested in many different ways.
Forms of Bullying
Bullying varies and the victim/perpetrator relationship is not always straightforward. A single young person can act as a perpetrator, victim or both. Also, age does not dictate the occurrence of bullying, but it appears to be most prevalent during the middle school years.
Types of bullying include:
- Verbal Bullying: Most common form of bullying; speaking to or about a person unkindly (Name-calling, teasing, sarcasm, insults, and yelling)
- Physical Bullying: Second most common form of bullying; harmful actions against another person’s body or property (Hitting, pushing, kicking, poking, spitting, biting, physical intimidation)
- Relational Bullying: Common among girls; also known as emotional bullying (Exclusion, alienation, spreading rumors, hurtful gossip, social humiliation)
- Sexual Bullying: Bullying based on gender; unwarranted sexual behavior (Sexual comments/photos directly or online, unwanted physical contact)
- Cyber Bullying: Bullying in which cell phones, social media and online outlets are used to ridicule a person (Harassing text/photo messages, emails, social media sharing, etc.)
While both genders engage in all forms of bullying, boys tend to engage in physical bullying, while girls tend to engage in verbal and relational bullying.However, recent bullying research suggests many physical assaults have been replaced with cyber assaults. Source
Consequences of Bullying
Bullying has been proven to cause long-lasting damage to a young person’s self-esteem and overall well-being. Along with psychological harm, bullying can result in physical injuries, social and emotional difficulties and academic problems. Studies have shown that victims of bullying often face struggles with eating disorders and various forms of self-mutilation. In the most severe cases, victims resort to more drastic measures, like suicide, as an escape from the constant torment. Source
Another alarming statistic shows that children who have been bullied in the past are at a higher risk of becoming a bully themselves. Often if prior victims are unable to target kids at school to bully, they will bully younger siblings or family members. Source
Startling statistics about Bullying
Unfortunately, bullying appears to be on the rise among children, teens and young adults.
- 77% of students admit they have been the victim of some type of bullying
- 58% of kids report being bullied online; 35% report being threatened online
- 25% of teachers see no problems with bullying and intervene only 4% of the time!
- 64% of kids admit to never telling an adult when they have been bullied. Source
Most bullying is not reported because children: don’t recognize it as bullying or think adults won’t understand; are embarrassed or don’t want to appear weak; think they deserve it and desperately want to belong; or fear retaliation and think nothing can be done about it. Source
KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS:
- Unexplained damage or loss of clothing and other personal items
- Evidence of physical abuse, such as bruises and scratches
- Loss of friends; changes in friends
- Reluctance to participate in activities with peers
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Unusually sad, moody, anxious, lonely, or depressed
- Problems with eating, sleeping, bed-wetting
- Headaches, stomachaches, or other physical complaints
- Decline in school achievement
- Thoughts of suicide
While some children withdraw, others get angry and seek revenge. Don’t assume that children react in expected ways to bullying. Most importantly, know that the problem will not go away on its own – encourage children to speak up about what is bothering them. Source
Bullying Prevention at Excelsior Youth Center
Excelsior Youth Center works vigilantly to provide an anti-bullying climate on campus. Excelsior has seen the harmful effects that bullying can have on young people, so we take extreme measures to ensure bullying is at a minimum. Carol Beauchamp-Hunter, Clinical Director, who leads Excelsior’s anti-bullying initiatives, says this: “Bullying is a serious problem that can lead young people to engage in severely destructive behaviors. It is imperative that schools, professionals, parents and youth work together and take a proactive approach to bullying.”
Upon admission to Excelsior, all girls are required to sign a Bullying Contract that states they will refrain from bullying and inform adults if they witness bullying. On this contract, the girls also write a personal statement regarding how they will fight bullying and encourage others to do the same.
Additionally, the girls participate in weekly meetings where they discuss various bullying issues and participate in role-playing activities. General bullying issues are discussed as well as issues that are directly relevant to current situations on campus. Excelsior provides the girls with a vast array of bullying books, videos and resources to share with the girls to increase awareness.
In school, Excelsior dedicates its 4th hour class to bullying projects. In the past, girls have written poetry, created artwork and developed campus-wide campaigns to raise awareness about bullying. Also, Excelsior is introducing a new bullying curriculum, “Hey U.G.L.Y” http://heyugly.org/, which is an empowerment-based program encouraging youth to be part of the solution to end bullying.
Educating our girls about bullying is important, but training our may be even more imperative. Excelsior requires every new staff to undergo an Anti-Bullying Training to better understand the dynamics of bullying and learn how to help prevent it. Additionally, Excelsior has a Bullying Prevention Committee that meets monthly to discuss current bullying issues affecting campus. During this monthly meeting, the committee brings in Excelsior’s student Leadership Group so they can share what they witness on campus. This is especially helpful because the girls give an insider’s perspective on what initiatives are working and what needs to be readdressed.
How you can help stop bullying
Advice to kids:
First and foremost, if you are being bullied – tell someone. If you do not tell anyone what is happening, they can’t help, and you cannot overcome bullying yourself. Please, tell an adult who can help you address the problem. Second, do your best to ignore bullying attacks if you are not being physically harmed – bullies want to upset you and often they don’t get that reaction, they will move on. This is particularly useful with cyber bullying – if you are sent a harassing message online, ignore it!
Fellow students: if you witness bullying, you can help. You may even save someone’s life. First – report the bullying to an adult. Only intervene (in a nonviolent way) if it feels safe to do so. Second, be a friend to victims of bullying. It hurts to be a victim and having a friend can go a long way. Finally, do not stand by and watch bullying happen. If there is nothing you can do safely to stop the bullying, walk away. Most of the time bullies are simply seeking attention and want an audience for their negative behavior.
Advice to parents:
Some encouraging news is that extensive studies show that positive parental behaviors can protect adolescents from being bullied and from becoming bullies. Additionally, studies suggest that positive peer relationships may help protect adolescents from being selected as bullying targets. Source
There are certain steps that parents can take to protect their children from becoming bullies or victims. First, parents need to speak with their children about bullying, its repercussions, and what to do if they are being bullied (tell someone!). Below are a few ways parents can help prevent their children’s involvement in bullying behaviors.
- Work with them to develop moral, emotional and social problem-solving skills
- Explain to them that despite people’s differences, everyone experiences certain basic feelings
- Help them develop empathy – ask them to reflect on how they would feel in situations where people experience distress or fear.
- Role-play to teach them basic assertiveness skills
Advice to schools:
Fortunately, many schools have implemented bullying prevention programs to combat the rise of bullying among students. While these programs have not been extensively evaluated, research suggests certain common elements among programs are showing promising results. These include:
- Improved supervision of students
- Detecting and addressing bullying with rules, consequences and behavior management techniques
- Implementing a school-wide anti-bullying policy and enforcing it consistently
- Promoting cooperation among professionals, staff and parents Source
A good place for schools to start is with this three-step plan:
- Identify the problem: Reference the Bullying Questionnaire®, Hazelden Publishing, 2007, to gather concrete information about bullying in your school.
- Create a plan: Parents, staff and teachers work together to design interventions to address specific issues relevant to your school.
- Set rules: Establish and enforce rules about bullying to create a positive, anti-bullying climate. Source
Final Thoughts about Bullying:
Just because you don’t see it and children don’t report it, doesn’t mean that bullying is not happening in your school or community. Know the warning signs and be vigilant about addressing bullying behavior. Most importantly, if you find out a child is being bullied, show support, develop a response strategy and follow up to ensure the bullying doesn’t continue.