According to experts, nearly half of the kids in the United States have been bullied at some point by the time they graduate from high school. Bullying impacts everyone involved, including the instigators, victims, bystanders and schools. Bullying is not a new problem, but it is no longer being ignored. The suicides of victims and detrimental long-term psychological effects make it imperative that parents have a plan of action if their child is bullied.
What Is Bully Behavior?
A bully acts in a threatening manner, either physically or verbally, to gain power over the victim. The bully is someone who is stronger or more powerful in some way and repeatedly attacks to keep the victim in a state of fear.
These are the four types of bullying:
- Verbal: Verbal bullying includes name calling, pointing and giggling, insulting and teasing.
- Relationship: The bully engages the aid of others to exclude the victim in activities, spread lies and render the victim an outcast.
- Physical: Physical bullying includes verbal threats of physical violence, hitting, pushing, kicking, tripping or any other act that causes physical harm. Destroying, hiding or stealing belongings and forcing victims to do things they don’t want to do are also forms of physical bullying.
- Cyber or Online: Bullies use the Internet and social media to spread rumors, lies and embarrassing messages about victims.
`Why Does It Happen?
Bullies behave the way they do for a number of reasons. It can be a learned behavior from older siblings or even parents. A perceived or real lack of attention is sometimes to blame. Being seen as tough makes the bully feel popular and powerful. Bullying victims themselves often lash out at others in order to regain a sense of power. Research also indicates that, for some kids, watching violent movies and TV programs and playing violent video games increases the tendency to bully and use violence against others.
Who’s the Target?
Victims are sought out because they are different, alone or appear weak. Victims include kids who are big, small, thin, short, tall, minorities, loners, disabled…the list goes on. In fact, anyone can be a victim.
The Bully Effect
Kids who are victims are typically depressed and fearful. Victims often experience sleep and eating disorders and fall behind academically. In a few publicized cases, victims committed suicide or engaged in violent shooting behavior as retaliation.
There are long-term effects on the bully if the behavior is allowed to continue. Bullies are more likely to engage in violent acts, such as fighting and vandalism. Bullies tend to start abusing drugs and alcohol during adolescence, addictions which continue into adulthood. They are also more likely to become violent toward their spouses and children.
Steps for Victims
Kids who are being bullied have options. Here are some tips that can help:
- Avoidance: Avoiding the bully keeps victims safe.
- Stay Calm: Bullies enjoy the reaction they get from victims. Walking away and staying calm is not the reaction the bully expects.
- Stay in Groups: Bullies are less likely to confront someone who is with a group of friends. There is safety in numbers.
- Tell an Adult: Telling a teacher, counselor or parent is the best option for a severe case of bullying.
Parents and Schools
Parents and schools can work together to stop bullying and victimization. Most schools have a plan in place to deal with bullies. Intervention is not only important for the victim, but for the bully. If caught early enough, a kid with violent tendencies can be treated.
Victims often blame themselves and suffer long after the attacks stop. Kids who suffered severe bullying need time to recover after the problem has been resolved. Kids need to have time to focus on themselves, eating right, sleeping and exercising to regain their health. A great way to start the recovery process is by reaching out to other victims, perhaps befriending those who are frequent targets. Participating in school programs about bullying and how to stop it is another way to turn the feeling of being a helpless victim into a positive. Volunteering at the local animal shelter or nonprofit organization can help victims put their problems into perspective. If months pass and symptoms are severe, seeing a therapist is recommend to help victims work through the trauma and move on.