What is Bullying?
Bullying is when a person or group repeatedly tries to harm someone who is weaker or who they think is weaker. Sometimes it involves direct attacks such as hitting, name calling, teasing or taunting. Sometimes it is indirect, such as spreading rumors or trying to make others reject someone.
Often people dismiss bullying among kids as a normal part of growing up. But bullying is harmful. It can lead children and teenagers to feel tense and afraid. It may lead them to avoid school. In severe cases, teens who are bullied may feel they need to take drastic measures or react violently. Others even consider suicide. For some, the effects of bullying last a lifetime. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
The New Face of Bullying
We all know that in a “dog eat dog” world, the biggest dog with the loudest bark usually ends up on top. We see this more clearly than ever in the school environment, through what is known as “bullying”. The media, an increase teen suicides, an increase in cyberbullying, and countless PSA’s and anti-bullying campaigns make us painfully aware of this reality. But what really is bullying? Are we as a society guilty of often labeling conflict between peers as “bullying”, and what separates bullying from conflict?
Today, almost every aspect of our lives has “gone digital” making face-to-face communication the exception rather than the norm. This is even more of a reality in the lives of our children and teenagers whose homework assignments, report cards, and social interactions all increasingly have a digital or online component.
There are certainly benefits to this new digital age. Communication is far easier than it was a generation ago. Unfortunately there are also disadvantages. This ease of communication has also helped move bullying beyond harassment at school or on the playground and into cyberspace. This should come as no surprise since bullying tends to occur where teens congregate, and today, two-thirds of teenagers go online daily to do school work, connect with friends and read about their favorite celebrities.
Characteristics of Cyberbullying:
- First, cyberbullying can be anonymous: youth who are being cyberbullied may not even know who the bully is, or specifically why they are being targeted.
- Second, the impact of cyberbullying can be wider-reaching than bullying done in person. The speed and breadth of the internet have permitted groups of youth to create websites just to make fun of other young people, to impersonate other teens on social media sites, and to circulate embarrassing photos, all within a matter of minutes.
- Finally, cyberbullies can be teens who might not otherwise have engaged in bullying behaviors. It is often easier to be cruel when the bully is sheltered from their target’s responses which can over time include devastating consequences such as withdrawal from family and friends, depression, diminished performance in school and in the most severe cases, self-harming behavior and even suicide. If a parent or teacher suspects a child is being bullied, what are the most effective steps he/she should take to protect the victim?
- Parents and teachers MUST intervene when they see bullying take place. First, they must tell the student(s) who are doing the bullying to stop. They need to document what they saw and keep records of the bullying behaviors. Victims need to feel that they have a support network of kids and adults. Help the student who is being bullied feel connected to school and home. Students who are also being bullied might benefit from individual or group therapy in order to create a place where they can express their feelings openly.source: APA