Being Apathetic and How It Contributes to Bullying
Bullying is a very serious problem. In the United States, bullying has resulted in extreme behavior such as school shootings. According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for 2014, 20% of perpetrators in these shootings have been victims of bullying and resorted to violence to get back at their tormentors. This data is disturbing and these kind of tragedies will continue unless bullying is addressed effectively.
One of the critical factors that allows bullying to continue unhindered in schools is apathy. Apathy is turning a blind eye to the plight of the victim. Without intervention from an uninvolved third party, each episode of bullying is guaranteed to escalate until the victim becomes overwhelmed and does something destructive; both to the victim and to people in the vicinity. To understand how to stop bullying, parents, teachers, and students should know what apathy is and how it contributes to the problem.
Meaning of Apathetic
What does apathetic mean? The definition of apathetic and the definition of apathetically can be described as when a person is observed as not expressing interest in things that would normally catch the attention of other people. Another word for apathetic is “indifferent” or an apathetic synonym is “uninterested”. Apathetic means a person appears cold and uncaring to his or her peers. To understand the apathetic definition, an individual who is feeling apathetic will be unresponsive to certain events in his or her surroundings because that person is not interested in paying attention to most circumstances that are encountered. People who are feeling apathetically do not even listen to what other people have to say or accept advice that is offered for positive growth.
This word as an adverb can be used to describe mood apathetic.Similar to the definition apathetic, this word can be used to describe specific behavior. The apathetic meaning remains the same when using this word to describe children who exhibit this behavior as a result of bullying.
The attitude of an apathetic person is not limited towards other people. People who suffer from apathy generally have no regard about their own safety, health, and well-being. They will commonly do things that endanger not only themselves but other people around them as well. They display no reservation towards violence either to themselves or towards other people. If their actions have resulted in injury or trauma to other people, an apathetic person does not feel that there is any obligation to at least apologize or rectify the situation.
The term apathy came to light during the aftermath of the First World War. Psychologists noted that veterans from that war began to withdraw from society and became unable to cope with the changes that the war had brought to their lives. They lost touch with their own emotions and became unable to relate emotionally to others as well. Since then, modern psychology has used the terms apathy and apathetic to describe individuals who become aloof and socially unresponsive as a result of a traumatic experience.
There are symptoms that define apathetic behavior. With kids, it begins with a lack of response to social stimuli that would normally excite other children. Kids with an apathetic mood will not express an interest to play with other children and may even become violent when prodded. While other children will delight in the pursuit of small hobbies like art, music, and reading, apathetic behavior related to kids is expressed with boredom and indifference to those endeavors.
Teens who suffer from extreme apathy also lack a solid vision for their future. Since they are not interested in what other people their age are engrossed in, they are unable to identify any occupation that is worth pursuing in the future. They may feel frustrated when these topics are discussed in their presence. While other teens are developing their skills and talents, apathetic teens will spend a majority of their free time watching TV, surfing the Internet, and playing video games. In some cases, they may want to start pursuing a new hobby or develop a talent, but they end up abandoning the endeavor due to loss of interest.
Teens with apathy also exhibit signs of being unsociable. They show no excitement when visited by family members or family friends. At school, they become either withdrawn and ignore the people around them or they may be dominant and show no regard for other students’ feelings and safety. Students who are apathetic and become dominant may want to push other children around since they are unable to feel any guilt for the stress and discomfort they cause for others.
Because of its manifestations in a child’s personality, apathy represents a very serious problem that needs to be addressed as early as the teenage years. Being able to address apathy will avoid the destructive effects it can have on children when they become adults and join the workforce.
Why Apathy is a Problem
Apathy is a big contributor to the environment of bullying that some children and teens experience. Bullying is considered as “an act of three characters” in an article published on Tolerance.org. These three characters are the bullied, the bully, and the bystander. According to a 2014 survey by the DHHS, 70% of teenagers in middle school admit to being bystanders during instances of bullying but are not able to intervene. The remaining 30% are the bullies.
Bystander apathy is a huge roadblock in addressing bullying. A bystander is defined as an individual who is within earshot or is near enough to witness an instance of bullying. There is apathy when a bystander sees the bully, but chooses not to intervene due lack of interest or a lack of a sense of moral obligation to protect the victim. Bystander apathy is the one factor that contributes to the development of an environment centered on bullying in school. The DHHS 2014 statistics signify that this trend still continues up to this day.
Adults are puzzled why other children allow such behavior to persist. The reasons for bystander apathy are various. Some children do not want to involve themselves for fear of being bullied as well. Other children express indifference if they do not know the victim and do not feel a need to intervene. Other individuals prefer to just go with the flow and avoid being labeled as a pariah among their peers for siding with the underdog.
By itself, bullying by one culprit is not that big of a problem. However, an apathetic attitude from bystanders provides incentive for the bully to intensify his or her behavior. These incentives create feelings of acceptance and a perceived elevation in status amongst the bully’s peers. To make matters worse, other bullies may be encouraged to join in because of apathy from bystanders.
As the events unfold and continue everyday, feelings of apathy eventually settle in each individual student as they struggle with the fear of being bullied and their perceived moral obligation to intervene and stop the violent behavior towards the victim. They begin to lose self-confidence and self-respect due to their inability to do anything to change the circumstances. In most cases, the victims also experience the same emotions as a result of their experiences.
This ultimately leads to an apathetic personality, feelings of shame on the part of the victims, and guilt in the bystanders. However, both parties express these feelings with either aggressive and self-destructive behavior or they become distant and unfriendly. Some victims even become bullies themselves to get even; especially towards younger students.
Thankfully, this kind of apathy is temporary and can be addressed if steps are taken early on. Time is always at a premium in this kind of situation. All three of the characters in the act may feel trapped by their own situations and also have feelings that they cannot break free of the loop. Of course, that is not true, but only if they are able to see it from another perspective.
Handling and Addressing Apathy
Since apathy is a root cause of bullying, anti-bullying programs will remain ineffective if this issue is not tackled by both parents and teachers. Teachers are the ones who are close to children in a school environment. They are in the best place to take action against apathy and bullying as well. Teachers should be able to encourage their students to look at where they have been turning their heads away from, including the bullying that they have witnessed or currently experiencing. According to Wounded by Schools author Kristin Olson, teachers who instill confidence that their students can do better actually succeed in empowering them to become more positive and more responsible for themselves and their peers.
To do this, mentors have to build a close relationship with each student at school. Calling students by their first names or even nicknames is a good method to bridge that gap since students naturally keep their distance from teachers they perceive to be a position of absolute authority. While building a rapport with every student is encouraged, teachers should put special focus on students who seem apathetic due to being bullied or being a bystander to the bullying.
This responsibility can extend to outside of school. Teachers should monitor the progress of problem students and extend a helping hand when necessary. Communication is the key. While these individuals will stonewall and be unresponsive at the start of the therapy, they will gradually begin to open up if common ground is established between them and their mentors. As long as teachers firmly keep up the pressure and make the effort to assist and guide each case, they will succeed in guiding students to overcome their apathy and become better individuals.
Parents should also realize their roles in lessening the effects of apathy on their children. Just like with teachers, parents should find a way to break the ice and coax their children out of their shell. These children typically spend their weekends in front of the TV. A trip to the outdoors should be good therapy for children with apathetic behavior. It is a good opportunity to bond because there is time to communicate when a family is camping in a remote area.
The only way for dealing with apathy in children is for the people who are most empowered do something to act. When parents and the teachers do it right, the shell that a child has withdrawn to out of apathy will gradually break and the child will learn to reach out, communicate, and overcome the trauma that led to the apathy in the first place.
When apathy is addressed and taken care of, schools have essentially gotten to the root of bullying. Bullying will not progress if there are voices that speak out against it. As the DHHS reports, bullies will stop torturing their victim within 10 seconds after someone speaks out against their actions.
Unfortunately, apathy on the part of bystanders have silenced those voices that could otherwise have helped in eliminating the phenomenon of bullying and the trauma that its victims feel in its aftermath.