Statement of the Problem
Bullying is an issue that has been affecting many in the world today. It takes place in many forms some of which are direct and include physical harm on the victim. Verbal bullying involves name calling and insults or threats being directed at the victim and may also involve emotional bullying where the victim’s emotions are targeted by the bully. Other forms of bullying may be indirect where the harm is not caused by the person directly but it still ends up affecting the person.
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Bullying is termed as a form of abuse that uses power and dominance to those that are weaker and less powerful. Bullying has been taking place in various areas but it is mostly common in schools and workplaces. It exists in various social groups, social classes and is found all over the world. The behavior is usually repetitive and aggressive and it is based on the sole intention of hurting the victim. Bullies carry out the behavior to harm the other person as a way of gaining power over the other person. It is normally a behavior that is planned and purposeful.
Bullying in schools has become very common and it has led to some very serious consequences. It has led to physical violence in forms of fight and in some extreme cases deaths by suicides. Cases have emerged of some forms of bullying in the schools that have led to some of these severe consequences. Children who are victims have had to live with short term and long term consequences of the behavior. Some of the other effects include poor performance in their studies, depression, bedwetting, being withdrawn, changing schools regularly and is some cases suicides among others (Norfolk, n.d). Over 7% of children especially in the 8th grade tend to stay at home once a month since they are bullied in schools (Banks, 1997). Reports have also shown that about 15% of students are bullied on a regular basis with some being initiated into the bullying practice. Direct bullying is more common among boys than with the girls. However, physical abuse in boys tends to reduce as they progress in age. The victims of bullying sometimes carry these effects such as depression and low self-esteem into their adulthood.
Bullying in schools has been ongoing for a long time now and is experienced in very many areas of the school. It occurs in some specific areas in the school compound and environment which include the School Bus Park, hallways and bathrooms and even during recess (Banks, 1997). It normally consists of a group of bullies who like isolating a student and bullying them by teasing and taunting the student. Some of them pressure the student to perform various tasks that humiliate the student. Teachers and school administrators have also been known to perpetrate bullying in the schools. They target a particular student and humiliate or abuse the student aggressively.
The causes of bullying arise from the social setting of the bullies. The bullies usually get the trait from the family setting or from experiences from home. Studies have shown that most bullies emerge from families that experience physical forms of punishment and where the families are undergoing some form of abuse. School bullies tend to lack warmth from their parents and they then strike back through bullying other children in order to handle their problems. They may also acquire the behavior by learning it from friends and peers (Banks, 1997).
There are several characteristics that bullies have in common especially in the schools. Most of the students who feel the need to bully others are usually looking to gain control since they normally feel more powerful than their intended victims. They tend to get satisfied once they see their victims suffering and they do not feel empathetic at all towards the victims (Staffordshire, n.d). When defending themselves they sometimes use the reasons that the victim provoked them to bully them. Most bullies usually have high self-esteem and they rarely perform the bullying act since they feel bad for themselves. They are however antisocial, defiant and badly behaved. They tend to break rules and display a lot of arrogance and opposition in schools.
Victims of bullies, on the other hand, are usually very insecure, cautious and they suffer from low self-esteem (Olweus, n.d). They rarely confront the bullies to defend themselves. They are insecure and anxious and may lack social skills needed to make friends. They tend to come from families where their parents are overprotective. The major characteristic that is found with victims of bullying is that they are weaker than the bullies and this makes it difficult for them to fight the bullies back.
The purpose of this paper is to advocate for laws to be passed across the U.S to ban bullying in schools and teachers and administrators being given more authority and responsibility to intercept and deal with bullying. This paper discusses bullying as a problem in schools n regard to how it has evolved in the past, its effects on the victims and how it can be stopped. The role of teachers and school administrators in the prevention of bullying is also highlighted together with their views and those of parents and legal sources. The various laws that have been passed by the U.S states are discussed and how important they are in relation to the increase in suicides cases among children and long-term psychological impacts on victims. Finally, the state of Massachusetts’ stand on bullying laws is discussed.
This research paper is an insight into an in-depth analysis of a review of the literature with respect to bullying and why laws should be passed across the United States on the same in an effort to curb this vice. Moreover, studies related to the giving of teachers and administrators more authority and responsibility to intercept and deal with bullying rather than ignoring it has been adequately studied. It bears noting that the focal point of the study is mainly on books and other scholarly materials which tackle bullying from all aspects. This is particularly bent on the fact that much as many students go through this, some of the experiences they pass through in the process affect them adversely later in life.
All the scholarly materials that were selected are either published books, certified websites and prestige journals. Moreover, these cover a wide range in terms of years because bullying is not an issue that began recently but has been there for quite some good time. It equally bears noting that all the articles analyzed were specifically from credible websites. Additionally, the research was limited to substantial secondary sources in order to employ studies already carried out by others on the same topic, primary sources were unavailable. To better analyze the whole idea, the paper was divided into categories based on the approach used to handle the whole research.
Several studies have been done with regard to bullying but the main points highlighted include the effects that come with bullying. Norfolk (n.d) puts it that children who are victims end up performing poorly in school, being depressed and some may even commit suicide. To back up this argument Banks (1997) points out that more than 7% of children in the 8th grade tend to stay at home once a month due to being bullied in school. On the same note, Staffordshire (n.d) depicts that it is more satisfying for the bullies to see their victims suffer. Further research indicates that victims of bullies are usually very insecure (Olweus, n.d), similarly, Wright adds to the bargain by pointing out that the victims tend to have very low self-esteem (2003). Moreover, Digizen (n.d) brings in a new perspective to the issues by incorporating the environment into the technological world creating anxiety among the children where children use the same for purposes of bullying.
The legal view of the whole issue as pointed out by Antibullying ( n.d) is that the legal system should be efficient in weighing the matter and any cases brought forward. Likewise, authors such as Rota (2010), GLAD (2010) and O'Dowd ( 2010) have given specific suicide cases which are worth considering. Another noteworthy matter depicted in the studies of Dombeck (n.d) is that the primary outcome of the whole ordeal to the victims is to do with be loneliness being part of their life through to adulthood. It comes with relief that “Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2010,”(2010) is a law which has made it vital for anti-bully policies to be posted on school websites and be made available to any student or parent if a need arises.
Bullying is a serious problem that is affecting the academic and social lives of the school going children. In order to understand the problem and develop an intervention plan that can be used to stop it, it is important to identify the various forms of bullying that are going on within the schools and the trends they are taking. It is also important to understand how they have carried out and the effects that arise from the practice. This will help develop a plan that will be able to establish a safe and secure environment in the schools for all children.
Evolution of Bullying
Bullying behavior has been continuously changing over the years. Different forms of bullying have emerged and they continue to develop and be used in the schools. Technology has played a very big role in the evolution of the behavior. The first forms of bullying that have existed over the years included both direct and indirect methods that were used in the practice. The methods continue to be in use until today but have been evolved by the use of technology.
Name calling was one of the types of bullying that were used by the bullies on the victims (Staffordshire, n.d). The victims were given certain names that were intended to humiliate them and lower their self-esteem. The method has since evolved and is in use in more places rather than just in schools. Physical bullying has also evolved from the physical injuries that were inflicted on the victims and it has included theft as a method that is used to involve threats and lead to the violence.
Social isolation that was once used to make the victims stay alone without friends and was experienced by children of all age groups has evolved to also include homophobic isolation. Homophobic isolation is the type of isolation that is practiced by the bullies on the children who are termed as gay or they are seen to be gay (Staffordshire, n.d). It also includes those seen to be bisexual or they portray characteristics that make them seem to be associated with the opposite sex. It is being practiced in the secondary schools and higher levels of education. The method is normally spread through the social websites through gossip and in other websites.
One form of bullying that has emerged in schools involves the abuse that is directed at children who are of different races and cultures. This form of bullying has been growing over the years with cases being reported that show the increase. The cases also show that the bullying is also changing according to the different age groups. 25% of children of age 8 were seen to be bullied more compared to the children who were 5 years who only made 20% of the overall cases in that age group (Staffordshire, n.d).
Cyberbullying is the latest and most commonly used form of bullying in the schools today. It continues to evolve with the changes in technology. It uses text messages, emails and various posts on websites as a way of bullying. Studies show that over 20% of young people in schools who are between the ages of 11 and 19 have been bullied through this form of bullying (Staffordshire, n.d). The children in the schools today are growing up in a different technological world that is very different from that of the adults. They have experienced information and technological developments that they are now using to evolve the bullying practice. The environment in the technological world is becoming threatening and is creating anxiety among the children. They are misusing the technology especially the mobile and internet to bully others. Over 22% of young people have been reported to carry out cyber bullying (Digizen, n.d). They are able to carry out the whole practice remaining anonymous to the victim. This form of bullying has made it possible for the bullies to carry out the practice at any time or place (Digizen, n.d).
Effects of Bullying
There are various consequences that are seen to arise from the practice of bullying. Students who are seen to bully others tend to carry the practice out of school and they tend to get involved in criminal activities and they experience a lot of legal trouble in their adulthood. They maintain this behavior even in the workplaces negatively affecting their ability to develop relationships that are positive. A study has proven that 60% of the students who were bullies when they were in grade 6-9 were convicted of a crime by the age of 24 (Banks, 1997). The bullies are also prone other problematic behaviors such as smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse.
Victims of bullying tend to be very unhappy while in schools and they end up getting depressed and have low self-esteem (Wright, 2003). Their school work is affected and they may choose to remain at home instead of going to school. They tend to isolate themselves from social activities that involve the schools and this makes them even lonelier. The loneliness and depression may lead them to commit suicide. This is particularly in the cases of emotional bullying where the emotions are targeted by the bullies. The victims also have difficulties when forming relationships in the future.
The bystanders who witness the bullying also get affected by it. They are not able to stop the bullying or help out the victim even though he or she may be their friend. Some are usually afraid of becoming the next victim so they end up avoiding confronting the bully. Others, on the other hand, may be of the opinion that the victim deserved the bullying (Sampson, 2002). They may actively get involved by teasing and ostracizing the victim and motivating the bully. They may also feel less accountable for the actions that are going on when they are in a group. Hence they do not feel the urge to help the victim.
Role of Teachers and School Administrators
Teachers and school administrators have a role to play in preventing bullying in the schools and making the schools a safe haven free from any bullying activities. They should first be aware of the existence of the problem so that they can develop measures to intervene. The teachers can help detect the existence of the practice and encourage the victims of bystanders to speak out. The interventions that are developed should be able to include the whole school and not intimidate the bullies or the victims either (Olweus, n.d).
Teachers and the school administrators can also help identify the areas that are used by the bullies to attack the victims since they mostly do so in private and hidden areas. They should, therefore, eliminate the existence of such areas within the school’s compound. They can also involve the students to develop rules within the classrooms that are against the behavior. To increase awareness of the problem to the parents, the school administrators should develop parent teacher days to make the parents aware of the problem’s existence and the importance of the parents to get involved in the whole process (Sampson, 2002).
Views on Bullying in Schools
- Legal View
The legal system rarely deals with cases of bullying though there are some laws that have been set up to fight against it. This is mainly because there are many cases of bullying that are not very serious. The legal system hence allows the school to deal with these small minor cases. Schools and the parents are given a chance to work together to come up with strategies that help prevent and stop it. It is important for the bullying cases to be handled quickly and efficiently before they bring more damages when they become too serious (Antibullying, n.d). This, however, does not eliminate the chances of legal action being used to stop the bullying.
There are circumstances that call for legal intervention as a last resort due to the seriousness of the incident. The parents, victims and other bystanders have the responsibility to report the incident to the police. Legal action can also be carried out if the other methods that have been used to intervene by the parents and the teachers have failed. It is also encouraged when there is a possibility that the bullying will reduce once the case is reported. When the bullying also takes place outside the school compound, the parents and teachers together with the community can cooperate with the police to prevent and stop it. Bullying is treated as an offense that is against the law when it becomes too serious and the consequences are very damaging. It is seen to affect the rights of other individuals and their freedom. When it is carried out against other students on the basis of race and cultural differences it is termed as being racism (Antibullying, n.d).
- Parents, Teachers, and School Administrators View
Despite the seriousness of the matter, some views exist that portray the behavior of bullying as acceptable. Parents have been known to have views on bullying that encourage the practice even further especially if it is their child who is bullying others. Some parents hold the view that boys will be boys. This view tends to imply that physical bullying is an acceptable behavior and hence they encourage the children to be more aggressive and physically abuse other children. Research has proven that the aggressive behavior of bully is learned and it is not a natural response (The National ALLIANCE for Parent Centers, 2003).
Some other views that are used by parents include the view that words cannot hurt. This view is argued that even though the words do not leave any physical marks or bruises on the children they are able to leave emotional scars that are more damaging than the physical bruises and words. The words spoken tend to have long-term consequences and effects on the victims as they affect the self-esteem and confidence. Some bullies are able to learn this from an early age and they use this approach to intimidate other children (The National ALLIANCE for Parent Centers, 2003).
Bullying by some parents is viewed as a natural part of childhood and they tend to dismiss their children when they disclose the fact that they are being bullied in schools (The National ALLIANCE for Parent Centers, 2003). Parents normally take up this view since the occurrence of bullying is so common hence it looks like a normal thing to occur to children when they are in school. The truth of the matter is that the aggression that is both physical and emotional should not be taken to be a normal part of childhood and action should be taken against it.
Some parents are of the view that bullying is carried out to make the children become tougher. They hold the opinions that the more that the children are bullied the more they are able to toughen up and become strong emotionally and physically. The truth, however, is that bullying lowers their self-esteem and makes them more afraid. It also lowers their self-worth and affects their academic and social life even in their adulthood. Bullying is normally carried out with an intention to harm the victim and inflict a sense of power among the bullies (The National ALLIANCE for Parent Centers, 2003).
Stopping Bullying in Schools
It is sometimes difficult to understand how schools can provide the environment for bullying to take place yet they are very well supervised. Bullying, however, is carried out secretly and in hidden areas and adults including parents and teachers are not able to notice when it is going on. Other reasons that make it hard to detect is the fact that the school staff may see it as harmless play and therefore decide not to intervene. There may also be the lack of enough supervisory settings that could lead to detecting the behavior in its likely occurrences (Wright, 2003).
- Laws on Bullying
Anti-bullying legislation has been developed to help curb the rise and spread of bullying within the school environment. The legislation provides for firm and fair enforcement of discipline within the school and security measures that provide for a climate that does not allow for bullying and threat-making. The laws have been developed to help the school administrators’ deal with the issue. They require the schools to develop anti-bullying policies and programs (Clabough, 2010). A national legislation that is against bullying has been proposed to make it mandatory for all schools to have these programs and policies that will help reduce the bullying incidents. The laws have been developed to emphasise to the schools that much is not being done to deal with bullying and that more needs to be done since bullying is an important issue that is affecting the schools.
The laws are allowing for various legal actions to be taken up against the bullies who are reported to have bullied a fellow student. The legal action to be taken depends on the type of offense that has been reported (Clabough, 2010). For example where the offense reported involved included threatening the victim, legal action can be taken for threatening behavior and this is treated as a criminal offense. When the bullied acts involve sexual assault towards the victim, the legal action can be taken against an indecent assault which is also treated as a criminal offense. An offense of common assault is charged against the bully when the victim was physically abused.
Legal action may also include applying for an injunction against the bullies to prevent them from bullying the victim. The injunction can be used to instill fear upon the bully and hence stopping them from bullying the victim. The legal action, however, is only carried out if the actions of the bully are in more that two separate occasions and they are constant and ongoing. Evidence has to be gathered to prove the harassment and it must show that it led to severe damages to the victim (Clabough, 2010). The two offenses of indecent assault and common assault can also be carried out without touching the victim.
- Their importance
The anti-bully legislation is very important in reducing the cases of bullying in the schools when everything has failed. The law can help sensitize the issue and teach the parents and teachers the need and importance of stopping the bullying behavior as it leads to severe consequences that are long-term in some cases. The teachers and staff at the schools are taught how to identify and deal with bullying cases and establish effective strategies that enable the children to report the cases of bullying within the school (Antibullying, n.d).
The laws can also be used to teach and educate the children on bullying the strategies and types of bullies that are in existence and how they can deal. The laws can also help curb the spread of the practice to other areas like the workplaces and other environments outside the school environment. Bullies can also be helped since most of them end up committing other crimes in the adulthood (Dombeck, n.d). The consequences of bullying can also be reduced especially where they are long term and severe like in the cases of suicides and psychological impacts on the children.
- Suicides by Children
The need for these laws has been necessitated by the increase in the number of suicides cases that have been reported. One case, in particular, is the case of Phoebe Prince, a 15-year student who committed suicide after she was continuously bullied by her new classmates for over 3 months (Rota, 2010). She had continuously been harassed verbally and physically by nine of her classmates, six of whom have been charged in court since the incident happened (O'Dowd, 2010). She had been a student of South Hadley High School located in Massachusetts, and had endured a lot of cyber bullying through popular websites like facebook, Twitter, Craigslist and Form spring and she also received threatening messages on her cell phone (Clabough, 2010).
In school, things had been thrown at her, while her face had been scribbled in her photographs that were hung on the school walls. The parents and the school officials had not done enough to stop the bullying even though they knew the extent it had gone into. They had instead turned away and assumed a mentality of kids will be kids that led to the suicide. This was one of the cases that led to the Massachusetts anti-bully legislation that was to curb such incidents from occurring (GLAD, 2010).
- Long Term Psychological Impact
Bullying has been known to lead to long term effects that affect the victim’s psychology. Some of the effects of bullying include self-esteem problems that may cause the adult to think lowly of themselves (Dombeck, n.d). They also tend to avoid social situations due to the interpersonal difficulties that they experience. Some of the victims of school bullying have reduced occupational opportunities since they do not get the chance to perform well in school. They have lingering bitterness and desires to seek revenge against the bullies. Some tend to have a lot of difficulties trusting people and they do not make many friends. They, therefore, tend to be lonely even in their adult life. In some cases, the victims of school bullying continue to be bullied even in their workplaces and in other areas even in their adult life (Dombeck, n.d).
- Helping the Victim Overcome
Victims of school bullying are usually very sad and deeply unhappy when they are in school (Banks, 1997). They suffer from low self-esteem since they are usually self-rejected by the classmates. There are various that the school can help the victims overcome the bullying and prevent it from occurring to them again. The first step of intervening is to ensure the victim's safety. The victims are usually weaker than the bullies and hence they are not able to face the bullies on their own. The victims can be monitored when they are in schools to identify the times that they are bullied (Wright, 2003).
The victim can also be encouraged to make friends with other students who will influence him or her positively. This will help increase the self-esteem and confidence of the victim. As the victim makes more friends they may be able to help him when they are being bullied. They can be taught basic social skills to enable them to make more friends. Mentors can also be allocated to the children who are bullied to be able to monitor them and protect them from the bullies (Wright, 2003). Victims can also be taught some skill that they can use to stand up to the bullies especially when they abuse is verbal.
The parents of the victims can help the children to overcome the effects of bullying. The parents can become more involved in the lives of the child to ensure that they are able to notice the instances of bullying. They can help the child speak out when they are being bullied. Counseling can also help the child deal with the psychological effects of bullying such as depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety. They can, therefore, be able to deal with the anger that they may feel the bullies and the need to seek revenge (Dombeck, n.d).
- Helping Bullies
Bullying is normally carried out in a secretive manner and can be difficult to identify within the schools (Wright, 2003). Teachers and school administrators may not be aware of how it is carried out. They must, therefore, assess the seriousness of the behavior and ensure that the students are aware of the seriousness of the matter. They should also be aware of the consequences of bullying and the charges that exist for bullies. If the bullies continue threatening the lives of the other students the teachers and the school administrators should now come up with ways to help the bullies turn around their behaviors.
They can confront the bullies in a firm and fair manner that will not provoke them. They can communicate to the bullies without threatening them and give stern warnings that their behavior will not be tolerated. More stern measures can be put up if the bullies do not change their behavior. The confrontations should be carried out in private to ensure that they bully does not become defiant and refuse to compliance (Wright, 2003).
To encourage them to change their behavior they can be rewarded if the cases for bullying reduce. Parents can be involved in the process to establish the reasons that lead the children to bully others. Where the reasons are based on the environment at home the parents can be involved in the process of reforming the behaviors of the bullies. Counseling can be used to help the children deal with the issues at home and reduce their chances of taking out their problems or anger on other students (Banks, 1997).
- State of Massachusetts Stand
The State of Massachusetts has become the 42nd state in the U.S to develop anti-bully laws that are to be putting up in the schools (Clabough, 2010). The anti-bully laws are one of the strongest laws that are against the bullying behavior being carried out in schools. The law which was developed in May of this year is very strict and requires all the schools within the state to protect their students from bullying and they must abide by this law (GLAD, 2010). This law applies to all the school regardless of whether they are private or public. It clearly defines the behavior of bullying and includes any repeated hostility that is directed to a student whether written, verbal or even if it is technologically spread. The technological methods include mass communication form of media that the victim can access directly or indirectly. It has taken into consideration the use of social media like facebook that is used to bully victims by writing on their walls.
The law has made it compulsory for every school in the state with the exception of some private schools to have an anti-bully policy that should be posted on the websites of the schools and made available to any student or parent that may need it (“Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2010,” 2010). The law also states that the policy should among others have procedures that should be followed whenever a bullying case is reported by a student. Disciplinary actions should also be stipulated in the policy clearly according to the law together with the procedures for notifying the parents of any cases that may involve their children bullying or being bullied. It further stipulates that the schools should offer counseling services to the victims of the bullying as well as the bullying themselves.
According to the Massachusetts law, the teachers and the school administrators should undergo some training to be in a position to handle the bullying cases in the schools and also come up with ways of preventing them from happening (GLAD, 2010). The training should also make them aware of the causes of bullying and various types of incidences that make up cyber bullying. The law has also given the teachers the mandate to report the cases of bullying once they notice them to the relevant authorities. School administrators should also be in able to investigate the reports of bullying and carry out disciplinary action on the students involved.
Students within the state are required by the law to know and understand the behavior of bullying. The schools should be able to teach them this information and make them understand. This includes the children who are in between the ages of kindergarten and those that are in grade 12 (GLAD, 2010). The students should be taught how to prevent bullying and how to handle the bullies appropriately. They should also know the differences that exist among the children who bully them and why they bully them. The law has been very effective in the region and cases of bullying have been seen to have reduced significantly.
Bullying is a serious issue that is affecting very many children in the schools and has been going on for a very long time now. There is the need to come up with a method that will help eliminate its existence especially the new form of bullying that has emerged that is the cyber bullying. Anti-bully laws can help eliminate this kind of bullying together with the other forms of bullying that have been in practice. Cyber bullying is hard to detect but its consequences can be very damaging as witnessed by the Phoebe Prince Case. The existence of such anti-bully laws like the one in Massachusetts can help deter the bullies from carrying it out due to the harsh measures that are taken against them once they are caught.
The laws can also place more responsibility and give the teachers and school administrators more authority to stop the behavior and deal with the bullies. Need to ban bullying in schools, the law needed to be passed now. Parents can also be sensitized by the need to monitor the behavior of their children especially when they are using the internet. Many of the students have been reported to take part in some of the cyber crimes and as more and more students join and continue to use the internet and other technological devices, the cyberbullying may continue. It is therefore very important that laws are established especially in the U.S to help curb the behavior before it evolves further and becomes uncontrollable.
- Antibullying. (n.d). Information on school bullying and the law. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from Antibullying: http://www.antibullying.net/law.htm
- Banks, R. (1997, April). Bullying in Schools. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from ERIC Digest : http://www.ericdigests.org/1997-4/bullying.htm
- Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2010. (2010). Retrieved July 5, 2010, from Mass: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2010/Chapter92
- Clabough, R. (2010, May 4). Anti-Bullying Legislation in Massachusetts. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from The New American: http://www.thenewamerican.com/index.php/culture/education/3468-anti-bullying-legislation-in-massachusetts
- Digizen. (n.d). Cyberbullying: A whole school community issue. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from Digizen: http://www.digizen.org/cyberbullying/overview/default.aspx
- Digizen. (n.d). Responding to Cyberbullying. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from Digizen: http://www.digizen.org/cyberbullying/overview/responding.aspx
- Dombeck, M. (n.d). The Long Term Effects of Bullying. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from El Paso Mental Health & Mental Retardation: http://info.epmhmr.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=13057&cn=5
- GLAD. (2010, May). Massachusetts Students: What to Do If You're Being Bullied. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries: http://www.lawlib.state.ma.us/subject/about/bullying.html
- Norfolk. (n.d). What is bullying? Retrieved July 5, 2010, from Norfolk County Council : http://www.norfolk.gov.uk/Childrens_services/Schools/School_behaviour/Bullying/NCC043119
- O'Dowd, N. (2010, May 1). Vicious rumors about Phoebe Prince and her family are being spread. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from Irish Central: http://www.irishcentral.com/story/news/periscope/vicious-rumors-about-phoebe-prince-and-her-family-are-being-spread-92600624.html
- Olweus, D. (n.d). Bullying at school: tackling the problem. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from Observer: http://www.oecdobserver.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/434/Bullying_at_school:_tackling_the_problem.html
- Rota, K. (2010, April 07). The legacy of Phoebe Prince: bullying and blame in cyberspace and the school system. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from Irish Central: http://www.irishcentral.com/story/ent/culture-pop/the-legacy-of-phoebe-prince-bullying-and-blame-in-cyberspace-and-the-school-system-90094637.html
- Sampson, R. (2002, March 22). Bullying in Schools. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from Office of Community Oriented Policing Sevices: http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/e12011405.pdf
- Staffordshire. (n.d). Types of Bullying. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from Staffordshire Learning Net: http://education.staffordshire.gov.uk/PupilSupport/Anti-Bullying/TypesBullying/
- The National ALLIANCE for Parent Centers. (2003). Common Views about Bullying. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from PACER: www.pacer.org/publications/bullypdf/BP-1.pdf
- Wright, J. (2003). What Teachers Can Do? Retrieved July 5, 2010, from InterventionCentral: http://www.jimwrightonline.com/pdfdocs/bully/bullyBooklet.pdf
While many parents assume that bullying is a problem confined to middle school or high school, it can begin as early a kindergarten and become firmly seeded in a school culture by the second or third grade.
If you are a parent faced with bullying, you need to take a firm stance so that the behavior is stopped before it becomes a de facto part of a child's school life.
The definition is simple: bullying is any aggressive behavior designed to intimidate or torment.
It can be physical, such as pushing or hitting, or verbal, such as name-calling or spreading gossip. In younger children, bullying can also include exclusion, either by urging others to ostracize an individual or by forming cliques to which others are conspicuously excluded.
While cyberbullying may be less prevalent in younger school children, the same behaviors that govern online bullying are played out in real life.
The statistics are dismaying. According to research published in the journal BMC Public Health, as many as 13 percent of children in kindergarten and elementary school are victims of bullying, while 11 percent admit to being a bully. An additional four percent can be described as victim-bullies, a great many of whom will become bullies in later life as a misguided form of self-protection.
Why Kids Bully
The kids most commonly targeted by bullies are those with a disability, who are obese, or are less adept at schoolwork or making friends.
In order to establish social dominance, a bully will often need little more than an unusual name to target a child for abuse, often under the guise of teasing. Other children, meanwhile, will take part, either because they are eager for social acceptance or fearful of ostracization themselves.
In the end, children will attack the same things that many adults do, namely behaviors, beliefs, or characteristics which stand out and challenge a social order to which person believes he or she is a part.
Fear of the unusual can sometimes lead children to exhibit aggressive behaviors to hide insecurities that they themselves do not understand. Such behaviors may be reinforced by parents who exhibit the same biases or use aggression as a means of dealing with conflict.
What Parents Can Do
Rather than dismissing schoolyard bullying as "a phase" that children will eventually outgrow, parents have the unique opportunity to alter these behaviors by helping young children overcome the very fears, anxieties, and insecurity that place them at risk.
There are six things you can do to help:
- Stay connected with your child. The more you know about your child's classmates and school life, the more likely you will be to spot any changes the child's demeanor or interactions. This includes both the child being bullied and the child who is bullying. Make a point of discussing the events of the day every day, and pay attention to not only what the child says but what he or she may be avoiding in conversation.
- Look for the warning signs. If a child is a victim of bullying, the first warning sign will usually a change in behavior. This may include withdrawing, exhibiting sudden aggression or anger, misbehaving, or being reluctant to go the school. If your child is a bully, the clues may be harder to pick up, but it is not uncommon to hear the bully make disparaging and boastful remarks about others, often without realizing how unkind the behavior is.
- Explain what bullying is. Young children understand that hitting or pushing another child is wrong. Even teasing is something they instinctively know is hurtful. But kids can be both sophisticated and unsophisticated in their approach to these behaviors. On the one hand, they can dismiss teasing as "just kidding around" and, on the other, fail to comprehend how other hurtful behaviors like exclusion can be. Help your child understand bullying in all its forms, both direct and subtle.
- Teach a child empathy. Young children have the unique talent of making connections. Unlike adults, who are able to navigate conflict and justify ill behaviors, kids who are five, six, or seven see action and consequence in a more straightforward way. If your child is a bully, ask how he or she would feel if the shoe were on the other foot. If your child is being bullied, help them understand why some kids misbehave can effectively "take them off the hook" and confirm that they are neither strange nor blameworthy.
- Tell a child what to do if he or she witnesses bullying. Children will often not want to get involved if someone else is being bullied out of fear of reprisal. Teach them how not acting is essentially the same as approving of the behavior. A child should understand that reporting a bully is not "tattling" but merely a way to stop others from getting hurt. Let your child know that he or she should report any such behavior to you or a teacher so that an adult can intervene.
- Lead by example. Many parents do not take bullying seriously enough and will dismiss some behaviors as being "not as bad" as others. Do not allow yourself to be swayed by these arguments. If such behaviors are ignored, young children will believe that they have been given tacit permission to bully. Even things like exclusion can be acted upon by teachers by breaking up groups, pairing kids who don't interact with school projects and regularly changing classroom seating.
As a parent, do not accept that nothing can be done. The greatest opportunity for change is not in high school when social dynamics are set; it's in kindergarten and elementary school when behaviors and personalities are still evolving.
If school officials fail to act, voice your concerns to the parent-teacher association or file a formal complaint with the local school board. Include a detailed outline of the bullying events and any other information that may support your claims. In the end, how you act can determine whether a child is allowed to suffer in silence.
Jansen, P.; Verlinden, M.; Dommisse van-Berkel, A. et al. "Prevalence of bullying and victimization among children in early elementary school: Do family and school neighborhood socioeconomic status matter?"BMC Public School. 2012; 12:494. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-494.