Bullying has always been part of our cultural awareness, but in the last few decades bullying has escalated from playground bickering into a full scale criminal scenario. When victims are being pushed to the point of suicide and lethal lash back, our society must acknowledge that this is a new breed of bullying. Not only does this new generation of bullying carrying a new violent intensity, but it is also not limited to the traditional male bully stereotype. There has been an increase in girl bullying as well. However, like in most things, girls handle bullying a lot differently than boys do.
Traditionally boys take on a more physical and direct approach to bullying. Boys will often bully their victims one on one, to their face and it may at times lead to physical aggression. Girls are very different in this area. According to child behavior specialist Tanya Beran PhD, girls do not prefer one on one confrontation. Rather, most girls will target a victim through a social group. Girls achieve this by first getting their own social group to dislike the victim by sharing information about the victim. This form of secretive slander is a bullying tactic in itself.
If the bullying never escalates beyond this gossiping level, it is still hurtful and damaging to the victim’s self-confidence and hinders their ability to form friendships with others. This form of bullying is very prevalent and very destructive as it eats away at the victim’s sense of self-worth. However, some girl bullying does not stop with gossip. In many cases a girl bully will simply use this tactic for a while to convince her own peer group to victimize an individual. The bullying may then take on a more confrontational tone in which the girl will taunt or embarrass her victim face to face and encourage her peer group to do the same.
In some cases girl bullying will include “relational” bullying. This means that a bully will even attack healthy relationships that the victim has already established. The bully accomplishes this by sharing hurtful information with the victim’s friends that could damage the relationship, or by simply making up stories and convincing the victim’s friends that they are true. For female victims this is often times more destructive than actual physical aggression, because adolescent females depend so heavily on their social group for support.
Girl bullying very rarely escalates to physical aggression like it does with boys. In recent years, as more and more people gain access to the internet, girl bullying escalates into online harassment rather than physical aggression. For a female victim this is the final frontier of her social interaction, and once a bully can destroy a victim’s cyber environment the emotional effects on the victim can be severe. Cyber bullying can take many forms, including harassing text messages, ambushing a victim’s Facebook page and even sending messages to the victim’s internet based friends in order to destroy those friendships as well.
Just like girl bullying takes on different aspects than boy bullying, the consequences of girl bullying look different as well. Boy victims tend to become more outwardly aggressive when bullied, while girl victims tend to turn inward on themselves. Girls will often blame themselves for the bullying, convincing themselves that if they were prettier, skinnier, or cooler the bullying would not have happened in the first place. This type of negative inner dialogue will often lead to destructive behaviors such as eating disorders. Girls also have a higher tendency toward depression as an effect of bullying. Often times this depression leads to thoughts of suicide.
Parents of girls should be on the watch for signs that their daughter is being bullied by other girls. Some signs include changes to eating or sleeping habits, changes in school performance, depression, withdrawal or unexplained anger. The best way to help your daughter deal with a bully is first of all talk with your daughter and be informed about what is going on in her life. When you are informed about what is going on you will better know how to deal with the situation. Your daughter should feel like she has your support and encouragement. Make sure that teachers are also informed of the situation so that together you can put a stop to the abuse.