I remember recently listening to a man who questioned the existence of bullying. According to him, yes young people can be teased, but he attributed “this bullying concept” to administrators who had blown childhood teasing out of proportion.
Unfortunately, this man may have been ignorant to one important factor; bullying (which I believe genuinely exists and is distinct from playful teasing among friends) can have serious effects on young people. I’ve seen these myself with some of the young people I have worked with and it’s a topic I’ve written about before.
First, let’s consider what bullying is. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) describes a bully as someone who “directs physical, verbal, or psychological aggression or harassment toward others, with the goal of gaining power over or dominating another individual”. The latter part of the definition is important to consider. Bullies can work alone, but more than likely, others are present, or at the very least, aware. Some bullies may also have been victims of bullying. In the end, bullies’ goal is to assert power.
Bullying can take on several forms, including verbal insults, psychological control, physical aggression, and sexual harassment. It can occur in person, as well as via technology commonly used by young people today (cellphones, social media like twitter and facebook, etc.).
Victims of bullying, particularly ongoing instances of bullying, may:
- blame themself (“Something about me makes people pick on me”)
- have low self-esteem, and be more depressed, anxious, and lonely
- develop physical symptoms (e.g. tummy ache that leads to a request to stay home)
- experience suicidal thoughts, or engage in suicidal behavior
- think of school as being unsafe
The good thing about increased awareness of bullying is that researchers have determined it can be prevented, and that this approach is likely more helpful than reactive steps take once an incidence of bullying has occurred and comes to administrators’/parents’ attention. Preventive measures typically include creating a positive school environment, as well as conducting parent/teacher training, social skills training, and counseling. These can be initiated by professionals trained in preventing bullying, including psychologists, social workers and counselors.
There’s a whole lot more on bullying that you may be interested in checking out. I’ve included links below. Bullying is a real issue and we are all responsible for keeping our young people safe.
Sources and more:
For Teens- Bullying Survival Tips
For Kids- Dealing With Bullies
For Kids- Stop Bullying
National Crime Prevention Council- What Parents Can Do About Cyberbullying
American Psychological Association- Bullying & Safe Schools for LGBT Students
American Psychological Association- Bullying: A Module for Teachers