Bullying. It’s something every one of us can identify with; we have either been the bully, the one bullied, the innocent bystander who stands up to the bully or who silently melts into the background because you might not know what to say.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) defines bullying as “intentionally aggressive, usually repeated verbal, social or physical behavior aimed at a specific person or group of people.” October is Bullying Prevention Month and the numbers related to any bullying statistic are shocking and disheartening. With the majority of bullying happening at school; 1 in 3 U.S. students say they have been bullied at school.
According to one study cited by the DHHS, a UCLA psychology study, 29.3 percent of middle school students had experience bullying in the classroom; 29 percent experience it in hallways or lockers; 23.4 percent were bullied in the cafeteria; 19.5 percent were bullied during gym class and 12.2 percent of bullied kids couldn’t even escape the torture in the bathroom.
Bullying occurs once every seven minutes, a study from the National Education Association (NEA) reports.
Who are the Bullying Targets?
Children and teens that are seen as “different” from their peers are the most frequent targets of bullies and are constantly bullied. Special needs students; LGBT students; students who are overweight; and students who are perceived as “weak” are the most likely targets of bullying.
The study by the National Education Association (NEA) reports that kids that are bullied say that:
- 58% is verbal bullying
- 23% are bullied about their weight
- 17% are cyber bullied
- 12% are bullied due to their disability
- 20% are bullied due to their gender
- 50% are bullied about their social or relational choices
- 39% of those bullied say it’s physical
- 18% of those bullied say it’s due to their perceived sexual orientation
Most experts report that bullying peaks in middle school, when children are transitioning from kids to young adults. Even though we know that bullying continues into high school and the workplace, it lessens considerably. However, approximately 160,000 teens reportedly skip school every day because they are bullied and 1 in 10 teens drop out of school due to repeated bullying; 83 percent of girls and 79 percent of boys report being bullied either in school or online.
Why Do Bullies Bully?
By knowing why bullies do what they do, we can comprehend how they pick their victims. When a bully wants to become popular, it is understood that he will pick on the most unpopular kid, one that has been outcast by the peer group. The bully reasons that the peer group will accept this anti-social behavior and will then become popular. If bullies come from a home environment where fighting and violence is the norm, then he or she will see it as acceptable behavior.
Bullies exist just about anywhere, but the three most common types are school bullies, cyber bullies and workplace bullies.
All bullies exhibit the same aggressive behaviors – they don’t like to be disagreed with and their aggression could be physical or verbal. The common result of bullying is that their victims feel powerless and they don’t know when the bully will strike next. Bullying behavior does not stop until bullies meet bigger and more powerful bullies or run up against bystanders and adults who stand up to them.
How to Prevent Bullying
A sobering bullying statistic is that 20-30 percent of students who are bullied tell adults or authorities about their situations. Without more reporting, it’s hard to change the patterns of bullying and the culture in our schools.
Jim Dillon, an author, school administrator and founder of The Center for Leadership and Bullying Prevention, recently published his Top 5 Culture-Changing Tips for Schools when it comes to bullying.
- Reframe Bullying Prevention. Bullying prevention shouldn’t be just about solving another school problem. It’s about improving how all members of the school community treat each other. People respond better to positive, inspirational goals than they do to a negative behavior. Bullying prevention is about strengthening community, so make that your goal!
- Start With And Stand On Principles. Bullying is more than a rule infraction. Bullying is about an abuse of power and the mistreatment of others. It’s a violation of the values and social norms of the school. All members of the school community should develop principles to guide how people treat each other in situations not “covered” by the rules.
- Invest Time And Energy In Translation principles Into Specific Words and Actions
- Adults Should Go First. Bullying prevention shouldn’t be just about changing student behavior. The adults in the school community need to model what they expect from students and make sure that their behavior is consistent with the school’s guiding principles.
- Use The Community To Build Community. Change cannot be imposed on people from above. It should emerge from people learning together about what they want the change to be and about the process of changing.
There are many ways that as parents you can help teach your children to be more than a bystander when it comes to bullying. Here are a few tips, recommended by the DHHS to teach your kids what they can do:
- Don’t Give Bullying An Audience. If one of your child’s friends or peers begins to bully someone, they shouldn’t encourage the behavior by giving it an audience. Refuse to spread the gossip, tell a trusted adult about what is overheard and reach out to the boy or girls who is being targeted – sit with them at lunch or play with them at recess.
- Set A Good Example. If a child knows not to bully others, then other students will follow their example. With a confident voice, tell the bully to stop what he/she is doing. A quick “Knock it off” or “Stop. That’s bullying” is a simple but powerful way to be a hero to a person who is being bullied.
- Tell A Trusted Adult Or Leave Them A Note. An adult can help stop bullying by intervening while it’s in progress, stopping it from occurring or simply giving the person being bullied a shoulder to lean on. Remind children who witness bullying not to get discouraged if they’ve already talked to an adult and nothing has happened. They can ask a family member if they will help and make sure the adult knows that it is repeated behavior.
- Be A Friend. Children can help someone who’s been bullied by simply being nice to them at another time. Being friendly can go a long way toward letting them know that they’re not alone.
We live in a not so perfect world. There will always be those who pick and torment those that they perceive weaker than themselves. That doesn’t mean we can’t teach our children to stand by and let people be picked on and feel miserable. Be a Hero. Not a Bully. Work on Preventing Bullying Today.