Bullying has become more prevalent in the media and the true extent and lasting effects of bullying are becoming more well-known. Whether bullying occurs at school, in the neighborhood, online or in the workplace, the effects are far-reaching and devastating. Research aimed at understanding bullying, as well as legislation to combat bullying, is keeping the issue in the news. Victims and potential victims are starting to fight back and their efforts are being widely reported. Instead of the attention-seeking bully being in the media, the strong stance that victims are taking is often the focus of bullying news.
Effects of bullying need to be shared
Bullying reports and information must clearly demonstrate the effects of bullying in simple terms so everyone understands that it is more than just a playground or workplace disagreement. U.S. News and World Report stressed the long-term effects of bullying when reporting the results of a study involving over 4000 school-age children who were surveyed in the fifth, seventh and tenth grades. Study author Laura Bogart said that more than 30% of study participants reported being bullied at least once a week, emphasizing that “The effects of bullying compound over time, and it’s important to catch it early.” The study also concluded that 45% of teenagers bullied frequently fell into a category of “low” mental well-being. David Finkelhor, director of Crimes Against Children Research Center of New Hampshire, in Durham, was not involved in the study but said results of the study offers more evidence that bullying has long-term effects. He added that the results “adds one more element to the growing priority of preventing peer victimization and helping those affected by it.”
In May, 2014, Reuters reported that a recent study concluded that in bullying victims, there was a tendency for kids who are bullied to have more physical illnesses, including low-grade, widespread inflammation throughout their body, when compared to kids who are not bullied.
The United Kingdom now publishes The Annual Bullying Survey, which is recognized as “one of the UK’s most comprehensive reports into the bullying of young people.” The annual report for 2014, which reviews bullying of 13-18 year old adolescents, discovered that 45% of young people experience bullying before the age of 18 and that 26% of those reporting being bullied experience it on a daily basis, and that 61% of the victims had been physically attacked at least once. Remarkably, 51% of students who reported the bullying responded that they did not get satisfactory support from the teachers they reported the bullying to. When studies are undertaken and results are widely reported in the news, there will likely be more effort to communicate the lasting effects of bullying and hopefully provide more awareness of the issue.
Workplace bullying in the news
The incidence and effect of workplace bullying is gaining momentum as a real problem that needs real solutions. Author and corporate training and leadership development consultant David Maxfield recently expressed how shocked he was, not only of the number of incidents of workplace bullying, but the number of forms it takes. Forbes quoted Maxfield as saying “You would think it would be intolerable.” Maxfield, study author and co-author Joseph Grenny were reporting results of a study they conducted, based on responses from nearly 2300 study participants. Shockingly, as Forbes states “ particularly with passive-aggressive bullying, many industries are so conducive to the behavior that a bully might actually enjoy increased job security as a result of it.” With reports such as this, more people are likely to start opening their eyes to the seriousness of workplace bullying.
Bullying legislation has the potential to have an impact in the effort to stop bullying. In the United States, each state has bullying policies or laws, with some states having both. Knowing the laws or policies in your state can go a long way towards taking a stand against bullying and efforts to end it. Additionally, if the state policies and laws are mediocre, efforts can be made to lobby for change, citing the specific legislation or policy that needs change when advocating for victims to lawmakers or in the media.
Turning the table on the bully
The attention-seeking bully may be surprised as more efforts are made to fight back. Victims and advocates are turning the tables on the bully and instead of letting the bully get the attention, efforts to take a stand and fight back against the bully are gaining support. Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) is a nationwide program consisting of young people and their supporters. It began quietly in Charlotte, North Carolina after West Charlotte high school student Alex Orange was fatally assaulted while trying to break up a fight at a Friday night party in 1989. On Monday, classmates met and vowed not to let his death be in vain and organized SAVE. There are now chapters across the country and it is still growing. There are currently over 2200 SAVE chapters, with more than 220,000 members from elementary through college-aged students and youth groups. SAVE chapters have also been started in several foreign countries. The SAVE mission is “striving to decrease the potential for violence in our schools and communities by promoting meaningful student involvement, education and service opportunities in efforts to provide safer environments for youth.”
In other bullying news that demonstrates the effect of taking power away from the bully, when Carleigh O’Connell heard that hurtful remarks about her body had been spray-painted on a cement barrier at a nearby beach, the 14 year-old Wall, New Jersey teenager fought back. In a Today interview, Carleigh said that she went to the site where the message was scrawled and took a picture of herself in a swimsuit, “showing off the subject of the spray-painted message,” according to Today. She then posted the image of herself by the graffiti and posted it to several social media sites. Carleigh asked her mother and all her friends to share the post. In fighting back, Carleigh stated that “It felt very empowering,” and also said that “It felt really good.”
Carleigh’s mother portrayed how much effect that openly fighting back against bullying can have on others. She stated that “I think sometimes our kids teach us … It’s taken me 50 years to have this much strength. I’m glad she’s got it at 14.” In these instances of fighting back, empowering the victim diminishes the control that the bully may feel that he or she has. When these instances of fighting back are given widespread attention instead of the attention-seeking bully being in the limelight, power is given back to the victim. This may result in less chance that the victim will suffer serious long-term physical and psychological effects of the bullying.
Bullying awareness and education
While the subject of bullying is slowly being talked about more often, the devastating, far-reaching effects are still not always known or understood. Many of the same techniques in communicating bullying information is the same whether talking to children or adults. Educating others about bullying does not simply stop at defining what bullying is. Stop bullying.gov emphasizes the importance of educating all students and staff about bullying policies and rules, how to address it and how to prevent it. When both students and staff clearly understand of what bullying is, what the rules are and information that the rules will be enforced, everyone is more likely to understand and abide by the rules governing bullying.
Discussing bullying at home
Bullying education and awareness does not end with staff and students. Parents must have knowledge and confidence to discuss bullying at home. Parents must realize there is a possibility that their child could be a bullying victim but embarrassed or ashamed to tell parents. It is imperative that parents keep lines of communication open so their child will feel confident to report bullying to them. Parents must also be open to the fact that their child may be the bully. Do not immediately dismiss the fact that your child is a bully. His behavior is perhaps completely different when he is at school. Your daughter may act completely different when in a group of peers that she is trying to impress. Parents must also set an example at home. Refrain from calling people names or gossiping, particularly within earshot of your children. They may very well think it is okay to model the same behavior since you do it. To further gain knowledge about bullying so that you can be in-the-know and able to confidently discuss it with your children, loved ones and in your community, read about bullying news, particularly efforts to give power back to the victim instead of the bully.