Bullying is defined as the repetitive intent to hurt or damage an individual or a group of people that have little power to help themselves. It is an epidemic with far-reaching consequences for the perpetrators and the victims alike. Bullies use name-calling, rumors, and sometimes physical attacks to damage their victim’s self-esteem. Understanding who bullies are and how and why they choose their victims may be the first step in halting these hurtful behaviors.
Bullies can be girls or boys and of any nationality, race or creed, but there are two main types of children that are most likely to become bullies.
Neither type of bully feels empathy for their victim, and may feel justified in their actions.
A bully is most likely to pick on a classmate who is seen as “different” than his peers, or is new to the school. Introverted students may be less likely to self-advocate against a bully. A potential victim of bullying may antagonize peers, earning a reputation of being “annoying.” They may be depressed or anxious and have few friends. A combination of these factors may create the perfect victim for a waiting bully.
Bullying can manifest in many different ways, but there are five main types:
Bullies are most likely to strike when adults are paying attention to something else, or when they aren’t present.
What Causes Bullying in Schools?
Bullying happens frequently in public schools due in part to the significant imbalance in the student-to-staff ratio. Because a teacher has only one set of eyes, it is covert bullying that is favored in the classroom environment, although other forms of bullying may occur in unstructured environments such as bathrooms, lunch rooms, locker rooms, sports yards or school busses. Covert bullying may go unnoticed by authority figures, giving both victims and bullies the impression that adults condone the behavior. Areas where children congregate in large numbers are prime opportunities for bullying, and it is likely to occur during unstructured times such as before and after school or during passing or hallway times. In school, most bullies choose to operate covertly so that adults won’t notice their actions. Aggressive bullying may be misinterpreted as horseplay by observing adults, and victims frequently deny that any bullying is taking place, fearing that nothing will be done. Another issue may be a supervising adult’s lack of training when they are observing a bully in action.
Types of bullying in schools vary greatly due to factors in student homes and at the school itself. Factors that may contribute to bullying include:
Is There a Solution?
School-age children can be bullied for a variety of reasons, including their appearance, academic abilities or disabilities, likes or dislikes and interests outside of school, or even family situations over which they have no power. A victim of bullying may suddenly become disinterested in school, have phantom pains or very real illnesses when it’s time to leave the home, and become withdrawn and depressed. When parents notice these signs in their child, they will want to take action. The bullied child will need to feel safe in his academic environment to be successful in school. Concerned parents can take action to diffuse types of bullying in schools by taking one or more of the following steps:
While these techniques may help in stopping most types of bullying in schools, parents will have to use a different approach to avoid and stop cyberbullying and social bullying. Victims of cyber bullying should not have their own cell phone or internet use revoked, but should be taught not to retaliate. If a cyber bully is sending threatening or unwanted messages, parents and children should learn to take screenshots and document the time and date of the unwanted contact. If the bully is a schoolmate, the school administrator should be alerted. The child’s email address and telephone number can also be changed to avoid future contact. Parents can take further action against bullies by reporting the bully’s phone number or email account to the proper authorities, who may see fit to suspend the bully’s privileges.