Bullying involves a large number of children and youth in the United States in all socio-economic backgrounds. Research suggests that there are no significant racial differences in rates of bullying and is therefore a universal problem. Bullying includes a wide range of behaviors that all hurt. Bullying is an aggressive behavior that is intentional and involves an imbalance of power and strength. It is a repeated behavior and can be physical, teasing or name calling, social exclusion or cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is bullying that happens online, via text messages or online on social websites that allow people to send hurtful ongoing messages to people.
Bullying is a complex social problem that crosses into almost all areas that we function in on a daily basis. There is no way to profile a bully. If the conditions and environment are supportive of bullying, then almost anyone can be a bully. In one study, it was found that kids who were bullied at home by siblings and/or relatives were more likely to bully someone else at school. If left untreated, children who learn that bullying is an effective way to get what they want are likely to continue bullying behavior into adulthood. It has been shown that children who bully are more likely than their peers to hold beliefs supportive of violence and encourage other youth to bully over time. There have been studies that indicate bullying can be tied to other problem behaviors such as vandalism, fighting, drinking alcohol, dropping out of school, truancy and other issues such as carrying weapons and high-risk gun ownership.
There is no typical stereotype for a bully. Bullying victims can be anyone. Typically a victim is someone who is small, weak, different or academically challenged. Children with disabilities or who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered also are typically more likely to be bullied. However, there are no single causes of bullying. Anything that makes a child different is a potential reason for them to be bullied. It is reported that boys tend to use physical violence to bully others and girls use relationships to bully others. Boys tend to report being bullied by boys and girls report being bullied by both boys and girls.
Bullying has been found to be related to negative psychosocial functioning among children who are victims including:
- Lowered self-esteem.
- Higher rates of depression.
- Feelings of loneliness.
- School absenteeism.
- Suicidal ideation.
Bullying does not cause a suicide. However, we do know that there is a connection between being bullied and depression. We know that depression is a risk factor for attempting suicide. Therefore, adults should look for signs that children are depressed and seek appropriate actions. Gatekeeper trainings for adults are easy ways to identify signs of suicide in a conversation with a child.
For Teachers and School Administrators
Bullying can take place in a multitude of places. Bullying typically occurs in areas such as the bathroom, playground, crowded hallways and school buses. Students also can use their cell phones or computers to bully other students. Teachers and coaches need to remind students that bullying is not accepted in school.
Teachers and administrators should advise students that telling someone about bullying is not tattling. If a teacher sees bullying occurring, he or she should intervene immediately and stop the bullying situation. They also should document the issue and tell the appropriate school administrators.
In 2011, the North Dakota Legislature passed house bill 1465 in which every school district must develop and implement a bullying policy. The policy must be in place by July 1, 2012. Information can be found on the Department of Public Instruction's website at http://www.dpi.state.nd.us/health/factsheets/bullying.pdf.
Signs of being bullied
Children may not always be vocal about being bullied. Listed below are some signs to look for in your child if you suspect he or she is being bullied:
- Ripped clothing
- Hesitation about going to school
- Decreased appetite
If you suspect your child is being bullied, encourage themto have open-ended conversations with you or another trusted adult. Telling a child to "let it go" or "Suck it up" isn't usually helpful in a bullying situation. It is also not helpful to suggest that children fight the bully. It is important for kids to remember that bullying is wrong and should be handled by an adult. When dealing with bullying, "telling isn't tattling."
Myths and Facts of bullying
- Myth: Bullying is a normal part of being kids.
- Fact: Bullying is not normal; we give bullies power by acceptance of this behavior.
- Myth: Just stand up for yourself and hit them back.
- Fact: Hitting back usually makes the problem worse and increases the risk for serious physical harm.
- Myth: Bullying is a school problem, the teachers should handle it.
- Fact: Bullying is a broader social problem that often happens outside of schools, such as at shopping centers, summer camps and in the workplace.
What to do if you are being bullied (and how to help someone else who is being bullied)
- Learn about bullying and share with others.
- Don't keep it to yourself, tell an adult.
- Write down what happened.
- Stay calm and try not to act upset or angry.
- Refuse to join in bullying of others.
- Be a friend to those that are bullied.
- Join a new club or organization where you can make new friends.
- Don't fight back, it can be dangerous.
- Sit or walk near an adult or friend.
- Believe the kid being bullied; listen to what they have to say.
- Stand up, don't stand by. Stand up for each other and say something to someone. Peers are present 85 percent of the time when bullying occurs.
- Treat others they way you want to be treated.
Information adopted from the American Psychological Association, North Dakota Department of Public Instruction and www.bullying.org