Bullying has become a major concern for parents and school administration all over the world because children that are victimized by bullying have to go through severe mental trauma; and if they do not get appropriate help and intervention, they are likely to suffer from extreme psychological problems that may affect their academic and lifelong performances. Therefore, it is imperative that adequate measures should be taken by the government, the school administration and the parents to counter bullying by duly intervening in such situations.
To some parents or guardians, perhaps, the issue of bullying in schools is introduced during the very first academic year of school. It is quite possible that a number of parents remain unaware about the fact that their child is being bullied at school or in the neighborhood; as many children might not complain about being bullied. In other cases, where children do complain about being bullied, their parents, caregivers, or school teachers might not take such complaints seriously.
Thus, it is important that parents should take interest in whatever is going on in the school lives of their children, so that if they detect any disturbing signs in them, they can address the issue instantly. Keeping in view the rapidly growing rates of bullying in school, it is imperative for the teachers and the parents not to ignore the complaints of children regarding bullying.
Bullying in general has certain basic characteristics according to which it is defined:
“Use of the three criteria of intention, repetitiveness, and imbalance of power for classification of behaviour as bullying seems now to be well accepted among both researchers and practitioners (e.g. Smith & Brain, 2000)” (Jimerson 11).
When children interact with each other, they act and respond according to their individual behaviors. In general, they can either show normal or hyper active, or sensitive, or aggressive behaviors, depending upon the type of situation they find themselves in. Bullying is such type of behavior that has three distinct qualities: intention, repetitiveness and imbalance of power.
Bullying is definitely not an unintentional behavior. A bully intentionally hurts the other child by identifying his/her weakness or sensitivity. It is normal for children to fight or quarrel during playtime. Normally, their quarrels are resolved within no time and they start playing again. But in a situation where one child is intentionally hurting the other, then they both might be gradually adopting the roles of a bully and the bullied, respectively. Their quarrels would not settle on their own but would occur perpetually.
Intentional hurtful behavior alone does not qualify as bullying; however, if such behavior is repeated over and over again, then supervising adults or teachers in a school environment should take note of it. For example, if a child is harassed on the basis of his/her race repeatedly; it can be categorized as racial bullying.
Racial and sexual bullying, both are directed towards such groups of children that belong to a specific race or gender. Such forms of collective bullying also indicate an assertion of power by a dominant individual or group of children that victimizes other groups and creates imbalance of power. An environment where one individual or a group of like-minded individuals undermines the personalities of others naturally creates imbalance of power.
Such an environment is detrimental to the growth and development of children as some tend to control the situation at their own will by compromising the interests of others. Whichever mode of bullying is chosen by the perpetrators, their main aim is to misbalance the equilibrium in any environment. By means of bullying, they try to get hold of the power share of other students and thus, boss them around at their will.
Bullying has different forms and motives but it can be broadly “…subdivided into five general categories: verbal, physical, relational, racial and sexual” (Norris 15). While each category of bullying uses different methods or reasons for bullying, each exerts the same adverse psychological effects on the victims. Children may frequently indulge in verbal abuse by which they can hurt the feelings or reputation of other children. This form of bullying is also most easily detectable and teachers or the school administration can intervene whenever a child or a group of children is using verbal tactics of bullying other kids.
Physical form of bullying is an advance form of bullying through which the perpetrators use their physical prowess to hit, shove or punch their victims. It is apparent that such kind of abuse can only be directed towards physically weak or younger children that cannot defend themselves. Such violent form of bullying should be reported by the victim or onlookers to the school administration instantly and the perpetrators should be duly punished. It is also important to involve the parents or guardians of the perpetrators in sorting out this problem in order to prevent the occurrence of such incidents in the future.
Using physical violence is not only harmful for the victims but for the perpetrators as well because it might get them in trouble. The victims shall have a hard time in forgetting such incidents and the inner fear of the occurrence of such incidents in the future might create anxiety and a sense of insecurity and low self esteem. It is also possible that their physical weakness may invite other perpetrators in schools or neighborhoods to bully them the same way.
Relational, racial and sexual forms of bullying can be inflicted by either using verbal or physical ways of bullying. In relational bullying, children use social relationships to harm the emotions or reputation of other children. Spreading rumors or false accusations about someone among friends or classmates or in a social network builds a bad image of the victim.
There could be many reasons for using relational aggression or bullying against someone. Jealousy, hatred or prejudice may be some of the many reasons that could be cited for displaying such behavior. Such antagonistic attitudes not only create a lot of negativity in the victims but may also take away their interest in social activities.
It is probable that the intention of the perpetrators is not only to hurt the feelings and social reputation of their victims but to humiliate or to insult them to such an extent that they get treated as social outcasts. Racial and sexual forms of bullying affect a lot of children, and in most cases, the perpetrators bully groups of individuals on the basis of their race or gender.
Therefore, if students complain to their teachers about any racist or sexual remark, it should not be ignored, as positive intervention on the behalf of teachers or school administration in such situations shall enhance the sense of security of the victims and they shall find emotional and psychological relief.
Verbal form of bullying involves sneering remarks about appearance, name calling, etc. and in recent times, this kind of bullying has evolved into cyber-bullying, where words are used through electronic media like cell phones and internet to bully someone. In this regard, cyber bullying has become more serious as the victims in many cases cannot identify the bully, if he/she is using false identity.
Cyber bullying makes it possible for the perpetrators to bully their victims at all times- thus the victims are traumatized round the clock.
“Today, children and adolescents are using internet sources such as Youtube, Facebook, Myspace, blogs and other social internet sites to pick on and harass each other…
Some researchers have also found significant gender differences in the use of cyber-bullying. Relational aggression… was a form of bullying most common among girls, uses friendships and relationships as a way to hurt others” (Daniels and Bradley 32).
While verbal bullying is experienced by children belonging to all age groups, cyber-bullying is experienced by older children that can access internet sources or mobile phones. The parameters of cyber-bullying are broader than any other kind of bullying, and it is easier to victimize someone through emails, text messages, tweets, and wall posts on Facebook than in any other way. Harassing on social media exposes the vulnerable condition of the victim and there are chances that other like-minded perpetrators also start bullying that child.
To a certain extent, this problem can be resolved by blocking such bullies from sending unwanted messages or images. Parents should also update their knowledge about this relatively new kind of technology-bullying and convince their children to let them be a part of their online social clubs or networks. This way, they would know whether their child is being bullied or bullying others.
Social networks in the cyber-space give numerous opportunities to children to participate in healthy activities. Moreover, social networks provide endless resources of learning about the rich experiences of their peers. Students can exchange a lot of information regarding their studies, or personal interests, etc.
By defaming someone in cyberspace, the victim is deprived of participating in healthy activities or of learning from the experiences of their role models or peers. Though cyber-bullying is one of the fastest ways to hurt the feelings or reputation of someone; its remedial measures are often not that strong.
Dealing with verbal and physical abuse is one thing and coping with bullying through technology is another. Cyber bullying is not confined in the school computer lab, but it goes beyond the school premises and could be employed in many different ways. Teachers and school administration can only intervene if such activities are carried out on the school premises. Beyond that it is not in their control to monitor or to intervene in similar situations.
Parents and guardians should be aware about their children’s online social activities and if they discover that their children are being cyber-bullied then their positive parenting can help their kids a great deal. The major task of parents in this regard should be to guide their children to be positive and courageous about it. Parents that have inculcated high self esteem in their kids would realize that their children can handle such situations with courage.
Moreover, the friends of the victim(s) can play positive role in such situations by counteracting the attacks of bullies in cyberspace. This would not only discourage the bullies but enhance the self respect and self esteem of the victims to a great extent. Thus, besides intervention by the teachers and school administration, parents and friends should build a support system for the victims to discourage the bullies and to enable the victims to handle the situation with confidence.
But the role of parents and friends does not end here, as the victims might need constant encouragement and guidance until he/she gains enough confidence to face such situations on their own. There is some basic difference in the personalities of the bullies and the bullied. Researchers have tried to find out the stereotype children that are prone to be bullied.
“Children who are shy, unassertive, and passive, with low self esteem and an anxious temperament are particularly vulnerable to bullies. Over protective parents actually increase their children’s risk of being targeted by bullies by hampering their independence and self-confidence and enhancing their sense of passivity and dependency” (Cohen 189).
It is a general fact that not all children are alike. Some are more confident than the others, while some may be shy and not so sure about themselves. Unfortunately, the latter type of children is prone to bullying on account of their weakness to defend themselves. Other traits that make some children easy targets for bullying are low self esteem and anxiety.
Therefore, it is important to inculcate self esteem in children so that they can counteract upon being bullied. It is the duty of the parents to enhance self esteem of their children by positive role playing at home. Children learn a great deal from their parents and in the absence of parental guidance, they are likely to fall victims to bullying.
For instance, in such schools and neighborhoods where the chances of racial bullying are higher, parents should beware of the risks their child might be exposed to. They should educate their children about how they might be treated in a racist environment and how they should react in a positive manner. Teaching children a positive outlook towards life helps them throughout their school and professional lives. If parents demonstrate high self esteem then children would follow in their footsteps and face bullying bravely.
Anxious temperament in children hinders their abilities to handle bullying in a positive and self assured manner. Anxiety makes it difficult for children to comprehend their miserable situation as they continue to fret over whatever is happening to them rather than trying to resolve the issue by talking to their parents, or peers or teachers.
Unfortunately, many children are exposed to bullying at a very young age, when they have hardly understood anything about complex human relationships and the ways to handle them. Keeping this in view, a number of parents exhibit over-protective attitude towards their children. In an attempt to protect their children from bullying, they might limit socializing activities of children, which is not a healthy approach. It is important to remember that positive role playing is more important than being over protective about one’s children.
Parents should make efforts to make their children more independent and self assured, rather than to pamper and to over-protect them. Passivity and dependency can only make thing worse for victimized kids because they would never attain the desired personal skills to handle bullying throughout their lives. Therefore, if children inform their parents about being bullied in school, they should instantly contact the school administration to intervene; while on their individual level, they should think about ways to improve self confidence and raising the self esteem of their kids.
It may be yet to decide whether bullying is a personality disorder or psychological or genetic problem of the perpetrator; but it definitely produces adverse psychological problems for the victims. Bullying directly affects the personality of the child being bullied in various ways.
“Words can wound and have negative effects for the victim for a long time, just like a physical attack. A major effect felt by many victims and even some onlookers in stress. This can be so great that it may affect their underlying health. Stress can increase the severity of asthma and some skin conditions” (Matthews 20).
Thus, a verbal attack can produce the same effect as a physical attack. In fact its repercussions can be felt even after a very long time. In a healthy school environment, children can focus on their academic and extracurricular activities in a great way.
However, if a child is constantly bullied at school, he/she is liable to underscore in academics and extracurricular activities. According to the above research, bullying is a stress-triggering behavior and stress definitely undermines mental and physical performance of children. If they are constantly attacked in the form of words or actions, they are bound to lose their attention on their studies and suffer inwardly for something they have no control over.
The problem of bullying has been intensified over the years with the invention of cyber-bullying. Unfortunately, with the use of technology, children can now be bullied beyond the school premises or neighbourhood parks. They can be bullied even within the comforts of their homes and in the presence of their parents in the form of text messages, images or video clips sent either through mobile phones or emails.
They can be humiliated in online social networks which might force them to withdraw from all kinds of social activities out of the fear of being bullied.In this regard, the first step that could be taken is to identify bullies and special sessions should be arranged with psychiatrists for them as well, so that this problem could be addressed in two fold ways.
Taking undue stress can also take its toll on their health and problems like skin conditions and asthma. Thus, bullying does not only affect mental but physical health as well and this makes it a critical problem in schools and other places where children experience bullying. The extreme effects of bullying on the victims may lead to suicide as well.
According to a study by Yale University, “Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims” (“Bullying and Suicide”).
Thus, it is clear that bullying does not merely attacks self esteem, self respect, or self confidence, or social standing, or reputation only; but it can actually make people commit suicide because their emotional and mental health are affected so badly that they lose hope to live on or to desire anything in life.
The extreme step of committing suicide by bullied children is not possibly taken instantly. Persistent bullying can have such deep psychological effects on the child that he/she may find the ultimate solution to all problems in the form of suicide. The fact that bullying can pose life-threatening risks to children is a cause of great concern for parents, teachers and the government. It is for this reason that in many countries, laws against bullying have been made and implemented in schools.
“Bullying has become a hot topic in Ontario, where the legislature passed a bill earlier this month that allows students to form gay-straight alliances and seeks to protect kids from being harassed by their peers at school” (Posadzki).
Such laws are meant to strengthen the student body, and safeguard those that are prone to bullying. This way, students would be able to directly combat the problem of bullying at school, and the fact that they are backed by law would definitely give them morale boost.
Other countries should also develop anti-bullying policies in schools and support those student bodies that can actively participate in anti-bullying campaigns in schools. Bullied children should be given professional help to cope with the trauma of bullying and steps should be taken to enhance their self esteem and confidence so that they may be able to cope with bullying on their own. A strong and positive social support system is required to protect the bullied and to discourage the bullies in schools and other places where such incidents are likely to happen.
Cohen, J. Lisa. The Handy Psychology Answer Book. Canton: Visible Ink Press, 2011. Print.
Daniels, A. Jeffrey and Mary C. Bradley. Preventing Lethal School Violence. New York: Springer, 2011. Print.
Jimerson, R. Shane. Handbook of Bullying in Schools: An International Perspective. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.
Matthews, Gail. How to Stop Bullying: A Guide for Parents. Ebookboxs. 2009. Ebook.
Norris, T. Marty. The Prevalence of Bullying in Central Florida Middle Schools as Perceived by Students. East Eisenhower Parkway: ProQuest LLC, 2008. Print.
Posadzki, Alexandra. “Scholars embrace Ontario anti-bullying law, call for national strategy.” The Canadian Press. 19 Jun 2012. Web. 20 June 2012.
“Scholars embrace Ontario anti-bullying law, call for national strategy.” Web. 20 June 2012.
“Bullying and Suicide.” Bullying Statistics. n.d. Web. 20 June 2012.