What to know and what to do
What is bullying?
"Bullying is a form of peer victimization displayed as intentional harassment that occurs repetitively, over a period of time" (Kivi, 2012). "At its core, bullying is a form of social power and it involves efforts to protect one's own status by taking advantage of the social vulnerabilities of others" (Farmer & Hall, 2009). When people don't know how to handle their emotions, bullying is often the action they take (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008).
There are several forms of bullying:
- Verbal abuse - such as teasing or spreading rumors
- Physical - such as hitting, pushing, pulling hair
- Sexual harassment
- Social exclusion - not allowing someone into a social group
- Harassment - including what can be done on cell phones
- Cyberbullying - occurs over the Internet
The fact that children are grouped together is a major reason bullying occurs. People naturally gravitate towards others like them. The opposite is also true. People tend to not socialize with those who are different. This often creates social dominance among groups, intentionally or not (Farmer & Hall, 2009).
Middle school is a great location to find bullies. The middle school-aged student is focused on acceptance among peers. He or she wants to fit in with appearance and with behavior. Those students who do not appear "normal" are easy targets. Bullying is also a way for some to fit in with the groups that they are trying to impress (Kivi, 2012). Whether a bully is trying to show leadership or trying to deflect bullying onto someone else, most of the time there is some form of power involved (Farmer & Hall, 2009).
Some bully because it's what they see at home or in day-to-day encounters. For some, it's a way to make themselves feel better. They have power over someone else, and they like it (Kivi, 2012). Unfortunately, researchers have not been able to determine who will become a bully and who won't. There are similar backgrounds for bullying, but just because a person has that background doesn't mean that he or she will be a bully (Cloud, 2010).
Many blame media and its violence for its influence on bullying. The media is a social outlet of acceptance for a bully to mimic. The video game, "Bully," encourages the gamer to bully by receiving points for doing so. At any rate, people who bully, for whatever reason, are four times more likely to be convicted of a serious crime by the age of 24 (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008).
How do I identify bullies?
Though not all bullies exhibit the same qualities, many of them are identified by their exaggerated confidence and feeling of power. These same people often also exhibit behaviors of emotional immaturity. Bullies tend to have a difficult time empathizing with others (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008). In general, bullies are more commonly boys. Boys will bully other boys and girls. Girls who bully tend to bully other girls (Kivi, 2012).
The following are some common types of bullies:
- Practiced Liar - excels at deception and can create a convincing story
- Jekyll and Hyde - mean in private but innocent and helpful in public, especially with authority
- Shallow, Superficial - Uses words to create conflict but often can't back up what is said; cannot be trusted
- Highly Critical - Uses methods to put down others
- Lobbying - Uses persuasive powers to convince others to follow their thoughts and beliefs; uses rumor to destroy others' reputations
- Evasive - Does not give straight answers and avoids accountability
- Bully Saboteur - Manipulative and feels that he or she is not receiving a fair share
(Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008)
What about prevention programs?
Most programs recommend beginning in the earliest years possible. For a program to be successful, adults should receive specific training with annual retraining. Adults going through the training will make up an Anti-Bullying Task Force to review the school's progress and to lead anti-bullying programs in the community. The key to the programs is to stress modeling non-violence (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008).
The issue with bullying programs is that there is very little data to show their success. Olweus is one bullying program that has shown success in getting kids to bully less. Much of the program deals with talking to the bully and asking why he or she bullies. However, this program started in the 1980s and new technology used in bulling often makes the talking technique out of date. Bullying Hurts is another program started by a former rodeo clown. Younger children love it, but again, social media data has not been used in detecting the success of the program (Cloud, 2010).
Data has shown that schools who build bullying programs from within the school tend to have greater success. One proven strategy is to invest in School Resource Officers. The main duty of an SRO is to patrol the halls and monitor the behavior of the students. One advantage of the SRO is that he or she can also monitor the actions of bystanders - the ones who just watch (Cloud, 2010).
So, what can I do?
Three things to stop bullying are: prevention, identification, and action. Schools can create prevention strategies by establishing school rules, by increasing staff supervision, and by devoting time each week to discuss bullying strategies. Identification is important because most students mention teachers not noticing as their reason for not reporting bullying at school (Kivi, 2012). To identify bullies, teachers should pay attention to the dynamics of the classroom. They need to be aware of the groups of kids hanging out together and how they interact. This allows the teacher to determine who are leaders and who seem to be on the outside socially (Farmer & Hall, 2009). Finally, action at school is important. Without school action, students will stop reporting bullying and bullies won't stop (Kivi, 2012).
To change the behavior of a bully, the bully and victim will both need counseling. One suggestion is to counsel them separately. The bully needs to be provided with better ways to interact with others and to be taught how to empathize. The victim needs counseling to teach him or her how to deal with the bullying. The key is to make sure that the victim knows that no one deserves to be bullied and that the behavior will not be accepted. Everything will be done to stop the bullying. The bully needs to know that his or her behavior is inappropriate and it will not be tolerated (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008).
One key thing to remember is that bullying is using technology faster than we can create ways to prevent it. With access to a cell phone, bullies can text friends, post to Facebook and Twitter, and send photos. Technology, however, is not the problem. The problem is the behavior and how to stop it (Cloud, 2010).
What To Do
- Ignore the bully's behavior when possible
- Leave the situation
- Be assertive
- Protect yourself without retaliating
- Ask the bully to stop - see an adult if s/he doesn't
- Use humor
- Take away the bully's power - pretend to agree
- Spend time in groups
- Practice what to say
(Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008)
What Not to Do
- Cry or act hurt in front of the bully
- Lose your temper
- Escalate the situation
- Retaliate in any manner
- Bring weapons to school
(Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008)
Cloud, J. (2010, October 24). When bullying turns deadly: can it be stopped? Time.
Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/
Farmer, T. & Hall, C. (2009, February 11). Bullying in school: an exploration of peer
group dynamics. Education.com. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/
Kivi, R. (2012, September 11). Bullying in middle school. Bright Hub Education.
Retrieved from http://www.brighthubeducation.com/teaching-middle-
Piotrowski, D. & Hoot, J. (2008, August 15). Bullying and violence in schools: what
teachers should know and do. Childhood Education, 84(6). Retrieved from
Gardner Webb University
July 27, 2014