Despite the old saying about “sticks and stones…,” words DO hurt. Words can cause long-lasting emotional scars. Sometimes bullying includes criminal behaviors that can cause injury or death. It’s for these reasons that National Bullying Prevention Month was created by No Bully, a nonprofit organization made up of educators, psychologists, lawyers, and other individuals who are concerned about the growing problem of bullying in our society in all of its forms.
Bullying is a word that has come to describe many different forms of harmful behavior. Unfortunately, instances where a victim is hurt or killed make up a majority of the news headlines, but bullying can include everything from everyday teasing to physical violence. Even laws that have been passed in an effort to curb the rising tide of not only school harassment but in other locations as well have sown considerable confusion.
Fortunately, regardless of the type of bullying that is being considered, there are strategies that have proven to be effective at dealing with it. This includes not only building awareness of the problem, but dealing with it when it actually happens. A large part of No Bully’s National Bullying Prevention Month has been to teach what bullying is in all of its forms, and give responsible people the tools they need to deal effectively with it.
A dearth of understanding about the problem of bullying has created an environment that has allowed the situaiton to fester and grow. Further, the drmatic growth of technology has allowed new avenues to be exploited by those who bully in ways not possible in the past. Best known among these is through the use of “cyberbullying,” which centers on the use of cellular phones and other devices or specialized “social media” (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) and apps that encourage free expression, whether the user be known or anonymous.
Psychologists differentiate bullying behavior from normal interaction when a person’s words or actions are harmfully aggressive and can be linked to real psychological damage in the person with lesser social status, whether it be short or long term. To a great extent, bullying in the past was considered and dealt with as a rite of passage, something to be outgrown over time. Unfortunately, a new examination of the patterns of bullying has shown that this is not the case.
No Bully’s National Bullying Prevention Month strives to change the treatment of this behavior from something that might not be considered socially unacceptable but shrugged off to one that is dealt with quickly and effectively in order to stem its tide, thus minimizing the effect the actions have on those who are forced to deal with it over and over again until their lives are made miserable.
Of course, not every negative behavior is bullying. Unfortunately, the lack of understanding has caused confused and obscured what is bullying into a range of negative behaviors that are not part of the body of evidence called bullying. This confusion also obscures the actions of the justice system when it needs to define bullying when it comes to dealing with those who do or do not commit these acts.
Making the issue of bullying more complicated are issues such as seduction, stalking and blackmail, which do not necessarily make the cut when it comes to defining the problem. In fact, especially when the behaviors of others drive a person to suicide, the result is often an overshadowing of the determinant actions by the life that has been taken.
Another impotant factor in examining the issue of bullying is when a child is affected by another child’s behavior but might not necessarily be caused by the repetition of the action or the imbalance of power that is exerted by the bully. This often creates a situation whereby parents and other persons cry bully, but it is not, according to a strict definition of the term. Instead, it is simply a conflict between children.
Sorting Through it All
By its very nature, schools are often the place where a greater amount of the burden of enforcing a reaction to the accusations of the bullying. This has the effect of causing a slow response to a given situation instead of allowing them to respond in a manner that might be most appropriate givern a particular situation. School officials and others in authority are often overly cautious to label a child a “bully” since that stigma could stay with the child for a long time, affecting not only his behavior but also those who interact with the instigator. This label can also cause a child to not get the appropriate counseling and instead keep those who deal with him from getting help.
The resources provided during National Bullying Prevention Month can help school administrators and other officials to understand when behaviors go from being common “misbehavior” to bullying that is in need of intervention. Further, understanding how children understand bullying and what deliniates that from normal “drama” is an important part of the information provided by No Bully.
Changing the behaviors of the bully themselves as well as those who deal with them is a major goal of National Bullying Prevention Month. Setting the tone for building awareness of bullying behavior will go far towards establishing boundaries for everyone’s actions, including those who might be classified as a bully. This will allow those who commit bullying to be as aware of the actions as those who might have to deal with them and give them the tools to deal with their bevavior in more productive and empathetic ways.
The fact that bullying has become such a problem will help to make better awareness possible as well as contribute to the conversation that is necessary if solutions are to be found. The beginning of the dialogue has started this process and this will no doubt continue in an effort to create solutions.