“When all of us are acknowledged as the human equals that we really are, there will be no space left for bullying.” –Jason Mraz
In today’s society, bullying has been defined as an intentional, aggressive behavior directed at an individual who has come to be viewed by his or her peers as lesser, weaker, or unfavorable. The behavior may be repeated, humiliating, or just simple exclusion. Bullying can consist of verbal, physical, or social aggression.
Verbal aggression usually takes the form of hateful words thrown at the victim, including but not limited to: spreading rumors, teasing, insulting, putting down the victim, or name-calling. Female students usually favor this form of bullying.
Physical aggression is usually more prominent among male individuals. However, it is rarely the first assault on the victim. In cases of physical bullying, verbal or social aggressive will have already occurred, and the escalation of the aggression will lead to physical violence.
Social aggression, otherwise known as group bullying, is a complex action in itself. In fact, there are six different types of students involved in the act of bullying.
He or she is the one instigating the aggressive behavior. While it is unknown why a child may begin to bully, there are many risk factors that may indicate a child has the potential to become a bully:
- Has trouble following rules
- Has little to no supervision or parental involvement at home
- Views violence in a positive way
- Other children often seek his or her acceptance
- Is easily frustrated
- Is physically, cognitively, or socially more adept than other children
- Has difficulty understanding and exhibiting empathy
- May be experiencing abuse in his or her home life
While a bully may not fit into this category, it is clear that society’s understanding of “the bully” has changed. A bully is more likely a confident, charismatic child than a social outcast.
This individual is the target and recipient of the bullying behavior. Often, this child is singled out, and he or she will be excluded from many other peer groups besides that of the bully. This is due to other children being fearful of becoming a victim of bullying by association. There are several risk factors that could possibly help to identify potential victims:
- Possibly smaller and physically less adept
- Viewed as annoying or less mature than his or her peers
- Perceived as “different” from the group – this could be due to weight, height, clothing, hobbies, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
- Not many close friends
- Not as academically advanced as his or her peers
It is important to ensure that the victim knows that he or she is not alone, and there are many routes and strategies to utilize in order to avoid or stop the aggressive behavior.
The Perimeter of the Aggression
While not all students are directly involved in doling out or receiving an aggressive action. They do, however, contribute to the overall effect of group bullying. That is, participating in the group encourages the bully to continue his or her behavior, and the victim is publicly humiliated even further.
The Assist – While these children do not initiate the bullying, they have no problem verbally encouraging the bully or even joining in the act.
The Reinforcement – Reinforcers are the ones who do not participate, but they do encourage the aggression. They may call out, laugh, or simply provide an audience for the bully, which feeds into the bully’s aggressive behavior.
The Outsiders – Some children are simply present. They do not do anything to encourage the aggression, but the do not attempt to stop it either. Often, these children want to stop the bully, but they are too afraid of retaliation to act.
The Interference – This is the child that, in seeing the wrongness in bullying, steps in the stop the violence. Whether or not he or she is successful depends on the situation, but the victim will often feel a sense of gratitude for this brave child.
It is important for children to learn these different roles of group bullying so that they can begin to understand the part they play in encouraging this aggression.
What Can You Do to Stop It?
Bullying prevention starts at home. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open in order to provide a line of safety and support. Talk to your child about how important it is to stand up for others and how to handle being the victim of a bully.
- Use humor – This works best with many bullies because it takes away their power. If they are unable to hurt your child’s feelings, they have no ammunition. The ability to laugh away teasing can be a wonderful weapon.
- Walk away – If your child has difficulty with humor, simply avoiding the situation can help. The bully will get bored and move on.
- Stick close to adults – Bullies don’t want to be caught, and they will avoid getting too close to authority figures.
No matter what, it’s important to keep the conversation open. Your child may be a bully, a victim, or simply a part of the group bullying situation. Regardless, it’s important to educate your child about the harm caused by bullying. After all, they are the only ones who truly have the power to rid our schools of bullies and victims.