Bullying is continued harassment though acts of domination towards another person, either through physical or emotional abuse. It can be done in person or even through online chat rooms and social media sites. This behavior is specifically meant to cause emotional or physical harm to the victim.
Teenagers bullying habits can include, but are not limited to, threatening and demeaning behaviors meant to belittle or target someone, hostile texts and messages, obsessive calls, stalking, internet harassment, social media attacks, name calling or other berating behaviors, physical intimidation, and even more overt physical acts of violence.
Many parents of teenage bullies ask themselves how their offspring could be capable of such abusive behaviors. They always want to know if the parents, the teenager, society or biology are to blame. There are various underlying causes to a bully’s behavior, often rooted in the anxiety of being adolescent, but at other times this behavior can spring from a traumatic experience, pressure from friends, faulty parenting styles, or any intricate combination of these dynamics. Bullying is done in most cases to increase feeling of personal power of the person doing the bullying. The need for the reassurance for personal abilities that makes degrading someone else such an easy fix.
The moment a child can start feeling like a big shot without having to do a lot to get there or deal with any negative consequences. Being seen as the top dog is something that will attract friends to become part of the bullying group. These peer groups will then also start to do the bullying as a group which ever minority they seems fit. The gain of power is easy to get used to. This will then become the start of a group dynamic, that will set one group of children against a other group. This makes it not always easy to recognize from the outside. Just as it is not easy to bring up by the child, cause the lose of being part of that peer group is something they can’t emotionally unbearable.
Hormones play an integral role in the act of bullying. Chemical changes in the youth’s brain as they continue to grow and develop contribute greatly to all “acting out” behaviors. Imbalances in hormone levels during this time can cause surprisingly erratic and dominating behavior, even from children who never behaved in this way before. People who experience hormonal imbalances often describe intense feelings of turmoil and isolation. These imbalances will often eventually pass as the chaos of the teen years wanes, unless there is an underlying chemical problem.
Emotions are directly related to hormonal dynamics, though hormones are not solely responsible for distressed emotions. Many things could cause a teen to experience negative emotions and their hormones often serve to amplify them, like adding gasoline to a fire that is already burning. Romantic problems, feelings of alienation, parental neglect or abuse can all lead a teen to feel out of control. This is very confusing indeed and many have described feeling as if they were “out of control.” To baffled and upset teenagers bullying can seem like the only way to take back control of a chaotic world and master their swirling emotions, and this method can work for a short time. But the relief that springs from acting out against another is not sustainable. Eventually the teenager will have to come to terms with their emotional world, whether through their own means or through the guidance of their elders, talk and behavior therapy.
Self esteem issues can also contribute to bullying dynamics. For teenagers bullying can seem like an easy solution to low self esteem. This is not a conscious decision, but an underlying desire to undercut others to make themselves feel more powerful. For example, a teenager may feel over weight, alienated, and self conscious. If they target an overweight or unpopular person to degrade in front of people, in their minds they are distracting others from their own perceived faults and shortcomings. For teenagers bullying can make them feel powerful where they would otherwise feel threatened or weak.
Acting out abuse
Sometimes bullying behavior can be a direct result of abuse the bully is sustaining or witnessing at home. If a teenager feels consistently dominated by their parents or caregivers, they may attempt to act out that domination on their peers. This is either because domination was normalized in their home and they perceive the destructive behavior as normal, or they are attempting to regain control where their caregiver has left them powerless. Either way, teachers have a responsibility to look out for the early warning signs in adolescents.
The effects of bullying can lead to permanent problems in the victim’s life, such as low self esteem, self hatred, or internalizing and carrying on the dominating behavior on their own. These problems may take years of therapy, costing thousands of dollars, to repair. The victim of bullying can feel pressured, worthless, or flawed. They will often blame themselves. All of these dynamics could lead to a lifestyle of self-harm or other destructive behavior.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports on teenage bullying statistics every year, and they say that bullying of 8 to 15-year-olds is on the rise. One in five children in this age bracket had participated in cyber-bullying. These statistics show that many young people are participating in this kind of bullying behavior.
What to do if you suspect bullying:
It is important to act quickly if you know that your teen is bullying or being bullied. The reason that time is of the essence is because bullying can quickly escalate to violence, and the faster these problems are recognized the sooner they can be reported and resolved. Name calling and harassment is a slippery slope to abusive actions, and it is the adults’ responsibility to watch for these behaviors in teens they are responsible for, or around often.
When a parent suspects that these dynamics are at play it is important for them to contact the parents of the youth being bullied or doing the bullying as well as any other adults that may be relevant such as teachers, principals or other care givers. It is essential that all adults be informed of the situation to protect the victim form these circumstances. Depending on the nature of these actions, the caregiver may decide to report the child to the authorities.
If bullying has crossed the thin line from harassment into abuse, then it is paramount to act quickly to minimize the damage. Time is of the essence, and just as with a physical injury, ignoring it will not help it to heal.
Now that we know how bullying happens, we can take measures to prevent it. Prevention is best had through education and intervention. Videos can be shown in classrooms on the harmful effects of bullying and portray the act as a crime rather than a harmless act. Usually when teens are presented with the severity of the consequences, they will be more likely to act appropriately in situation where bullying may happen.
Intervention is another key solution. If a caregiver or teacher over hears mean talk or behavior they should appropriately punish the offenders and talk to them about the consequences of their actions. A talk should also be had with the victim of the mean behavior so that they can know how to ask for help if the abuse escalates. Often, bullying scenarios are made worse by the victims’ inability to come forward.
Knowing what to look for in adolescent behavior, proper preventative education, a strong dialog between caregivers and children, and how to proceed when bullying is expected all needed to minimize the damage of such behaviors. Bullying may be unavoidable in some cases, but adults have the power to protect and minimize the damage.