INFORMATION ON BULLYING
Bullying usually, although not always, occurs between individuals who are not friends. In a bullying situation, there is a power difference between the bully and the victim. For instance, the bully may be bigger, tougher, physically stronger or be able to intimidate others or have the power to exclude others from their social group.
The intention of bullying is to put the victim in distress in some way. Bullies seek power.
Bullying knows no financial, cultural or social bounds. Bullying may not look exactly the same everywhere, but it has the same devastating effect on everyone, and during adolescence, bullying is not a problem that usually sorts itself out.
The effects of bullying last a lifetime. It causes
misery for the bully's victims, and leaves a lasting
impression on all those who witness repeated bullying
Physical bullies are action-oriented. This type of bullying includes hitting or kicking the victim, or, taking or damaging the victim's property. This is the least sophisticated type of bullying because it is so easy to identify. Physical bullies are soon known to the entire population in the school. As they get older, their attacks usually become more aggressive. These aggressive characteristics manifest themselves as bullies become adults.
Statements such as this are akin to waving a red flag in
front of a raging bull, and may provoke a bully into action.
Reactive victims then fight back and claim self defense.
Reactive victims need to learn how to avoid bullies.
Bullies have particular behavior and personality traits. Dr. Sam Samenow describes these as:
Why aren't all children victims? Research on bullying states that sixty percent of all students are never involved in any kind of bullying incidents, either as victims or as bullies (Psychology Today, Sept. 1996). However, every day in schools, many students witness bullying incidents as they happen, and this forces their involvement. Often, these students do not realize that what they are witnessing is, in fact, bullying. Good natured teasing and rough-housing are only fun if both parties involved agree that it is fun. The power difference between bullies and victims determines the nature of the interaction.
Most children are approached by a bully early in their
school career, and/or when they change schools. It is often
the child's reaction to that first encounter with being
bullied which determines whether or not he/she will be
approached again. Children who are victimized tend to
display "vulnerable behaviors". People who are identified as
being highly vulnerable are often singled out as
Bullies have average social popularity up to approximately age 14 or 15. In fact, some children even look up to bullies in some ways because they are powerful and do what they want to, or have to, to get their way with their peers. However, by late adolescence, the bully's popularity begins to wane. By senior high school, if a bully is still attending school, his or her peers group includes other bullies, or more seriously, he or she has developed or is developing gang alliances. By late high school, school-yard bullying is a rare occurrence, but what takes its place is more serious.
By age 24, up to sixty percent of people who are identified as childhood bullies have at least one criminal conviction. A study spanning 35 years by psychologist E. Eron at the University of Michigan found that children who were named by their school mates, at age eight, as the bullies of the school were often bullies throughout their lives. In this longitudinal study of bullies, many of these children, as adults, required more support from government agencies (Psychology Today, Sept. 1995). For example, these children later had more court convictions, more alcoholism, more antisocial personality disorders and used more of the mental health services than the other children.
Unless new behaviors are learned and adopted, bullies
continue to bully throughout their lifetime. They bully
their mates, their children, and possibly their underlings
in their place of business. Bullying gets them what they
want, and although some bullies learn to refine the art of
bullying in their professional lives and use it in
situations where there is a power imbalance, it creates less
than harmonious relations in the workplace.
In most situations, victims do survive, but carry their emotional scars for a lifetime.
By senior high school, regular bullying incidents are often a thing of the past, but all victims know who the bullies are, and avoid them. By age 16 or 17, bullies and victims are usually moving in different directions in terms of curricular interests in school, therefore their paths rarely cross. Social groupings are clearly defined by this time in a student's life and invisible boundaries have been drawn.
When a child has been repeatedly victimized, certain
behaviors and attitudes tend to emerge which are
inconsistent with his/her typical behaviors. Often children
are too embarrassed and humiliated to report
Once the issue of bullying is brought into the open by the school, and the community is made aware of the "No Bullying" policy, the school gains a reputation of being safe for all children and is seen as an active partner in taking care of children.
The benefits to students are significant as well. When children know that the school they attend actively works to make the learning environment a safe environment, and that bullying is not tolerated, they can afford to relax their guard and divert more of their attention to learning rather than staying safe. Even students who cannot be categorized as victims or bullies, but who witness bullying, feel more comfortable when they know that the school community, students, staff and administration stand together against bullying.
Regardless of what kind of school environment students have previously encountered, when they enter a school with a Zero Tolerance for bullying, students who have bullying potential usually test the policy. For this reason, it is important that the school maintains the active teaching of non bullying behaviors, and publishes school-based bullying statistics. Students need to know that this is not just a 'shot in the dark', and that the policy will be reviewed and maintained each and every year.
Although it is best to have the entire school working
toward a reduction in the number of bullying incidents, in
situations where this cannot be achieved, classroom teachers
can adopt individual programs. This is not as desirable for
obvious reasons, but it is a start to tackling the bullying
A major cause of stress at school for children is the fear of being taunted or bullied. Kids who are bullied are two to three times more likely to have headaches or other illnesses. (ABC News, Sept. 22, 1996)
Schools need to advertise the fact that they have adopted a Zero Tolerance policy for bullying, and that they have a working Anti-Bullying plan in force. School faculty must maintain a high profile in terms of the behavioral expectations of their students in order to gain support from the community and send a clear message to the families of present and future students that bullying will not be tolerated.
Once a school has established itself as a safe place for all students, school personnel will need to continually work at maintaining that reputation. It is a difficult task that requires the school faculty to put student safety at the top of their priority list. Remember, students who do not feel safe at school are unlikely to perform as well academically as they are capable, thus possibly impeding their future opportunities. A commitment by the staff to no-bullying in the school must be a long term undertaking. When a new school year begins, staff should be sure Anti-Bullying policies have been included and discussed in the yearly goal setting process.
Schools can create support groups where victims can
concentrate on developing the skills needed to change their
place within the social hierarchy of the student body. The
goal is for the victim to become a part of the group of
students who do not bully and are not bullied. Such changes
requires a great deal of time and effort, but it is
possible, given the necessary support.
When it comes to discipline or punishment issues, most students strongly believe in fairness and therefore welcome Anti-Bullying policies that encourage treating others with care and respect. However, students are more likely to support an Anti-Bullying campaign when they have been directly involved in determining the need for such a program, and deciding on its implementation. This includes developing Anti-Bullying policies and subsequent school-wide or classroom activities. It is necessary for students to promote the concept that caring for others is a valued quality, one that they accept and encourage.
Teachers need to be sensitive to the fact that the level of student participation in the Anti-Bullying campaign will vary. Once students are mobilized to take action against bullies, they must feel secure that teachers understand their need to stay safe. For some students this means ensuring that the information they share will not cause them to lose status in their peer group. Confidentiality must be maintained in order for the program to be viewed by the students as credible. As well, to help students actively participate and take on the challenge of reducing bullying, it is very important that they learn the difference between "ratting" and "reporting". "Ratting" occurs when a student tells about an inappropriate act with the idea getting another student into trouble with the administration. "Reporting" happens when a student tells to protect the safety of another student. Once students have an understanding of the difference between the two, reporting bullying incidents becomes much less of a social taboo.
Thanks for your interest in this important issue.
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