Bullying: Why do People Bully and What You Can do To Prevent It

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So Why Do People Bully?

Bullying is a widespread issue that affects everyone – young or old, people from all walks of life can become victims of bullying. Not only that, but bullying comes in a dizzying number of forms. Besides pushing, shoving or name-calling, bullies can attack a person socially by spreading malicious rumors. Cyber-bullying, or menacing others via email, social networks, or texts, is becoming increasingly common as well. Victims of bullying can often suffer severe long-term effects, including anxiety and depression. The most tragic cases can lead to injury or even death. More people than ever before are working to help stop bullies and treat their victims. However, few places answer the question at the heart of the matter: why do people bully?

The Facts about Why Do People Bully

Many people simply are not aware just how widespread school bullying is. According to DoSomething.org, more than 3.2 million students are bullied in school every year. Here are some startling facts:

  • Teachers stop bullies only about 4 percent of the time
  • One in four teachers believe bullying is normal
  • Bullying is most common between fourth and eighth grades – as many as 90 percent of students at that age report being bullied
  • 75 percent of school shootings are the result of bullying

Why do People Bully Others?

The suicide of Phoebe Prince is a particularly tragic case from 2010. Her story represents a turning point in the way people think about bullying. Prior to her death, many people assumed that bullies were typically individuals with low self-esteem. More and more studies are showing that this is far from the truth.

StopBullying.gov lays out many of the risk factors common among children and teens who become bullies. In many cases, bullies are the popular kids – the surplus of social power often leads to abuse as they try to further bolster their popularity or dominate their social group. These children often feel no empathy when it comes to how those around them might feel. Bullies often have several key emotional differences from other kids, including:

  • Failing to see violence as a negative experience
  • Being more aggressive or irritable than their peers
  • A tendency to look down upon other people
  • Having trouble following rules

For kids with these risk factors, bullying often starts small – a shove in the hallway, or a few traded insults. The problem spirals out of control when no one – parents, teachers or fellow students – intervenes. Once a bully realizes that they can get away with their negative behaviors, it only encourages them to bully others even more.

Parental influence and peer pressure also play a large part in the formation of bullies. Parents with difficulty dealing with their own aggression often pass these bad habits to their kids. However, sometimes the best of parents cannot stop their kids from becoming bullies. If a social group determines that bullying is acceptable behavior, kids will shift their moral compass in order to ‘fit in.’

Working to End Bullying by Understanding Why do People Bully

Preventing bullying requires a multi-faceted approach. Parents, schools and the community need to work together. Parents can start by talking to their kids about bullying. It is important that they understand the negative effects as well as safe ways to stand up for themselves. Encourage your kids to get involved in enjoyable activities. This can help them to bond with others over common interests rather than embarking on a quest for social power. Ask your kids how their school-day went, and be on the lookout for dropping grades, withdrawn attitudes or other signs that could be the result of bullying.

For teachers, administrators, bus drivers and other school officials, the first step of the process is to create a safe environment. Teach the principles of tolerance, respect and acceptance. Enact strict anti-bullying policies and make sure they are routinely enforced. It is vitally important to keep in contact with both parents and children to make sure that awareness spreads. Schools with successful anti-bullying programs will monitor bullying closely and learn key facts like how often it happens, and how students, teachers and parents react in order to make adjustments to their program as needed.

At the community level, everyone can pitch in to raise awareness. Highlighting the prevalence of bullying and advocating effective strategies for everyone involved can provide major benefits for everyone in a community. It also allows for public discussions between otherwise un-involved parties such as churches, community officials, or businesses. For more information about how you can help, visit StopBullying.gov.

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