In middle school, I was one of only two kids with red hair. There was a gorgeous, popular girl with long auburn hair that had fiery highlights, and then there was me: a short, skinny skater kid with hair that looked orange in the sun, and like fire engine indoors. I was an instant target for bullies, and as if on cue, they lined up to torture me and make my life miserable.
Unfortunately, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the common response to bullying was either to ignore it, saying, “boys will be boys,” or to rebuke the victim by insisting that being a “tattle-tale” was somehow worse than being a bully.
Thankfully, attitudes have changed. We are moving toward a more just, kinder society, but there is still more that we can do.
WHAT IS BULLYING?
Bullying is a repeated aggressive behavior (physical or verbal) where one person (or group of people) in a position of power deliberately intimidates, abuses, or coerces an individual with the intention to hurt that person physically or emotionally.(1)
To determine if an incident is a conflict or bullying, look for all 3 of these characteristics:
- Intentional - the behavior was aggressive and a deliberate attempt to hurt another person
- Repeated - these aggressive actions occur repeatedly over time to the same person or group of people
- Power imbalance - the person bullying has more physical or social power than the child or children being bullied
TYPES OF BULLYING
Both children and adults experience many types of bullying. Some types are obvious, while others can be more subtle. Here are some of the ways bullying happens:(2)
Physical bullying includes hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching, pushing, or other forms of violence, including damaging property.
Verbal bullying includes name calling, insults, teasing, mocking, intimidation, homophobic or racist remarks, sexist remarks, or verbal abuse. While verbal bullying can start off harmless, it can escalate to levels which start affecting the individual target.
Social bullying is often harder to recognize and can be carried out behind the bullied person's back. It is designed to harm someone's social reputation and/or cause humiliation. Social bullying includes:
- Lying and spreading rumors.
- Negative facial or physical gestures, menacing or contemptuous looks.
- Playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate.
- Mimicking unkindly.
- Encouraging the social exclusion or “leaving out” of someone.
- Damaging someone's social reputation or social acceptance.
Cyberbullying is overt or covert bullying behaviors using digital technologies, including hardware such as computers and smartphones, and software such as social media, instant messaging, texts, websites and other online platforms.
Cyberbullying can happen at any time. It can be in public or in private and sometimes only known to the target and the person bullying. Cyberbullying can include:
- Abusive or hurtful comments, texts, emails, or posts, images or videos
- Deliberately excluding others online.
- Nasty gossip or rumors
- Imitating others online or using their log-in.
COMMON PLACES BULLYING OCCURS
Almost every environment where there is inadequate supervision is prone to bullying, but these are the most common places that school children experience bullying:
- To and from school - there is often little-to-no adult supervision at bus stops, and the bus driver is usually the only adult on the bus.
- P.E. / locker room - This is perhaps the most well-known place where bullying occurs. It’s even a common trope in movies and television, but it is a real problem. Bullies can easily pick on their victims under the guise of simply playing a game. Locker rooms have almost no staff supervision. The Atlantic recently published an article that shows that many kids skip school altogether to avoid P.E. due to bullying.
- Other areas - hallways between classes, cafeterias, in the classroom before class begins, and restrooms. All of these are common because of their lack of supervision.
Bullying also happens outside of school, and with the prevalence of technology, has even entered the home. Cyberbullying happens everywhere there is an internet connection.
Popular gathering places - many communities have places teens like to gather, and these can be bullying hotspots. Coffee shops, malls, restaurants, parks, and even churches can be places where bullies can hurt their victims.
Bullying is not limited to school-age children. While not as common, it does occur among college students and in the workplace. Many of the same tactics are used, but they are often more subtle.
FACTS ABOUT BULLYING
28% of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying. (3)
20% of U.S. students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying. (4)
Approximately 30% of young people admit to bullying others in surveys. (5)
70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools.
70.4% of school staff have seen bullying. 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% witness bullying once a week or more. (6)
When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time. (7)
9% of students in grades 6–12 experienced cyberbullying. (8)
15% of high school students (grades 9–12) were electronically bullied in the past year. (9)
However, 55.2% of LGBTQ students experienced cyberbullying. (10)
How Often Bullied
In one large study, about 49% of children in grades 4–12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the past month, whereas 30.8% reported bullying others during that time.
Defining "frequent" involvement in bullying as occurring two or more times within the past month, 40.6% of students reported some type of frequent involvement in bullying, with 23.2% being the youth frequently bullied, 8.0% being the youth who frequently bullied others, and 9.4% playing both roles frequently.(11)
How Often Adult Notified
Only about 20 to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about bullying. (12)
SIGNS OF BULLYING
Signs a Child Is Being Bullied(13)
Look for changes in the child. However, be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs.Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are:
- Unexplainable injuries.
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry.
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness.
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares.
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school.
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations.
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem.
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide If you know someone in serious distress or danger, don’t ignore the problem. Get help right away.
Signs a Child is Bullying Others(14)
Kids may be bullying others if they:
- Get into physical or verbal fights
- Have friends who bully others
- Are increasingly aggressive
- Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
- Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
- Blame others for their problems
- Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
- Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
EFFECTS OF BULLYING
Short-term effects of bullying for the victim(15)
- Social isolation
- Feelings of shame
- Sleep disturbance
- Changes in eating habits
- Low self-esteem
- School avoidance
- Symptoms of anxiety
- Higher risk of illness
- Psychosomatic symptoms (stomachaches, headaches, muscle aches, other physical complaints with no known medical cause)
Short-term Effects of Bullying for the Bully(16)
- Poor school performance (missed school due to suspensions increases this risk)
- Increased truancy risk
- Difficulty maintaining social relationships
- Increased risk of substance abuse
Long-term Risks of Bullying for the Victim(17)
- Chronic depression
- Increased risk of suicidal thoughts, suicide plans, and suicide attempts
- Anxiety disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Poor general health
- Self-destructive behavior, including self-harm
- Substance abuse
- Difficulty establishing trusting, reciprocal friendships and relationships
Long-term Effects of Bullying for the Bully(18)
- Risk of spousal or child abuse
- Risk of antisocial behavior
- Substance abuse
- Less likely to be educated or employed
HOW TO PREVENT BULLYING
Parents, school staff, and other caring adults have a role to play in preventing bullying. They can: (19)
- Help kids understand bullying. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bullying is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
- Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
- Model how to treat others with kindness and respect.
Stop Bullying on the Spot(20)
When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time. There are simple steps adults can take to stop bullying on the spot and keep kids safe.
- Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.
- Separate the kids involved.
- Make sure everyone is safe.
- Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
- Stay calm. Reassure the kids involved, including bystanders.
- Model respectful behavior when you intervene.
Avoid these common mistakes:
- Don’t ignore it. Don’t think kids can work it out without adult help.
- Don’t immediately try to sort out the facts.
- Don’t force other kids to say publicly what they saw.
- Don’t question the children involved in front of other kids.
- Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately.
- Don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.
Get police help or medical attention immediately if:
- A weapon is involved.
- There are threats of serious physical injury.
- There are threats of hate-motivated violence, such as racism or homophobia.
- There is serious bodily harm.
- There is sexual abuse.
- Anyone is accused of an illegal act, such as robbery or extortion—using force to get money, property, or services.
Bystanders to Bullying(21)
Someone who witnesses bullying, either in person or online, is a bystander. Friends, students, peers, teachers, school staff, parents, coaches, and other youth-serving adults can be bystanders. With cyberbullying, even strangers can be bystanders.
There are many things that bystanders to bullying can do to stop bullying:
- Question the bullying behavior. Simple things like changing the subject or questioning the behavior can shift the focus.
- Use humor to say something funny and redirect the conversation.
- There is strength in numbers. Bystanders can intervene as a group to show there are several people who don’t agree with the bullying.
- Walk with the person who is the target of bullying to help diffuse potential bullying interactions.
- Reach out privately to check in with the person who was bullied to let them know you do not agree with it and that you care. It makes a difference.
HOW TO RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT BULLYING
In addition to taking a stand against bullying, and supporting victims, you can also help raise awareness. There are many ways to do this. You could talk to kids, parents, and teachers about what to look for and how to prevent bullying.
You could volunteer with organizations that work to prevent bullying and support victims. You could share your own story of being bullied with victims. You could start a local initiative to raise awareness.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. This is a great time to get involved locally. There are activities every week in October that many schools use to promote awareness about bullying.
You could also show support year-round by wearing silicone wristbands that contain an anti-bullying message. We can help you do exactly that!
Luckily, I survived my long years of bullying pretty much intact. I have suffered a few of the long-term effects, such as finding it hard to trust people, and aversion to groups of people I don’t know or trust, but I have largely turned my negative experience into a positive empathy and passion to see that no one has to suffer the way I did. Please do your part to stop bullying in its tracks.
What Is Bullying (1)
Types of Bullying (2)
Student Reports of Bullying and Cyber-Bullying: Results From the 2011 School Crime Supplement to the NationalCrime Victimization Survey (3)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (4)
Bullying and peer victimization at school: Perceptual differences between students and school staff. School Psychology Review, (5)
Facts about Bullying (6)
Naturalistic Observation of Peer Intervention in Bullying (7)
Student Reports of Bullying and Cyber-Bullying: Results From the 2011 School Crime Supplement to the NationalCrime Victimization Survey (8)
Naturalistic Observation of Peer Intervention in Bullying (9)
The 2011 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our nation’s schools.(10)
Bullying and peer victimization at school: Perceptual differences between students and school staff. School Psychology Review, (11)
Effectiveness of school-based programs to reduce bullying: a systematic and meta-analytic review (12)
Warning Signs for Bullying (13)
Warning Signs for Bullying (14)
Short Term and Long Term Effects of Bullying (15)
Short Term and Long Term Effects of Bullying (16)
Short Term and Long Term Effects of Bullying (17)
Efffects of Bullying (18)
How to Prevent Bullying (19)
Respond to Bullying (20)
Short Term and Long Term Effects of Bullying (21)
Types of Bullying Infographic (1)
Facts about Bullying Infographic (2)
Long Term Effects of Bullying Infographic(3)
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