One in three US teens between 6th and 10th grades is involved with bullying in some manner. That is equivalent to 5.7 million teens, according to statistics released from the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center.
Bullying involvement may mean being the bully, being bullied or being witness to a bullying episode. The act of bullying is exhibited be a variety of behaviors by a person or group who repeatedly tries to harm someone who is weaker or more vulnerable. This includes physical hitting and pushing, as well as threats and intimidation. Malicious teasing, taunting and name-calling are also common bullying tactics. Stealing or damaging property, food or lunch money is also common.
The bully typically sees himself as superior to his victim. According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, a bully is usually very confident and appears to have high self-esteem. The bully will manifest the behavior by exerting power over another individual and demonstrate superior strength using physical force such as, hitting, slapping and pushing. Male bullies will target both boys and girls. Teen girls who bully typically do so by making fun of how someone looks or talks and are more indirect with their tactics. Girls tend to gossip or encourage others to reject or exclude the victim of their bullying.
Bullying can have profound impact and influence on the victim for years, even into adulthood. You can take action and be a part of the solution by being aware of the signs.
Those who bully show the following characteristics:
- Bullies are physically aggressive with pro-violence attitudes.
- Bullies have hot tempers or are easily angered; impulsive with a low tolerance for frustration.
- Bullies have a strong need to dominate others and have little sympathy for their targets.
What do targets of bullies look like?
- Those who are bullied are often anxious, fearful, tense and afraid; concentration in school lessens.
- The bullied child may avoid school to avoid the bully.
- If subjected to long-term bullying, a bullied child’s self esteem and self-worth may be negatively impacted.
- The bullied child may become more socially isolated.
- The bullied child may come home from school complaining of hunger because the bully has forced him or her to give up lunch or lunch money; bullied children will rarely admit that this is what happened because they feel as though they should be able to handle the situation.
- All of these things can lead to withdrawal and depression with feelings of devastation and long term consequences.
An indirect victim of the bullying cycle is the child who witnesses bullying. Watch for the following signs:
- He or she can feel guilty or helpless for not standing up to the bully on behalf of a classmate.
- Guilt is also involved when a witness fails to report the incident to someone who can help.
- The witness may be drawn into the act of bullying by peer pressure, increasing feelings of guilt.
- The witness may end friendships with those who are bullied so that they don’t also become a victim.
- The witness may also blame the target, feeling that he/she may have deserved the abuse.
What are the solutions to stop bullying?
- Every school should have a strong anti-bullying program that clearly states that bullying will not be tolerated, with defined consequences for the behavior.
- In conjunction with schools, parents should be part of the solution by talking about bullying at home, what it means and why it is never acceptable.
- Teens should fully understand that they need to report bullying to their teachers, school counselors or parents and be able to do so without fear of retaliation or being ignored.
Bullying can and must be stopped, but it requires collaborative effort by all involved parties and teaching better ways of solving problems than to harm or intimidate another person.