There is growing attention paid to the increasing problem of bullying. Not just a problem in the US, bullying is attracting notice in the United Kingdom, South America and other countries around the world. But, what is bullying and why is it attracting so much worldwide attention? Today we are exploring anti bullying intiatives, an example is www.bullying.co.uk
In many ways, bullying can be difficult to legally define, similar to pornography, but people know it when they see it. Many professionals view the problem a bit differently. They maintain the difficulty in establishing a unified definition of bullying is challenging because there are so many ways it can be defined.
Instead of addressing just the obvious physical intimidation that occurs in school corridors and schoolyards daily, bullying also has numerous nuances and variations. A workable definition might sound something like this.
Bullying is using force, threats or forms of coercion calculated to abuse, intimidate or dominate others. If only this one sentence served to both complete the understanding of and establish a legal definition for bullying. It does not.
Bullying typically comes in at least four versions.
- Physical, and
All types accomplish the questionable goal of abusing and/or intimidating others. Yet, bullying can also include harassment (of all types), exercising undue control and creating the perception of an imbalance of power, social or physical, wherein the bully has domination over their target of the moment.
Although the bullying of young children and/or teenagers captures the most public attention, it occurs just as often in the adult world at work, at home, at social events and in every other life situation. Bullying also need not be the simple one-to-one type most people have seen in real life, movies or on TV. It can be much more complex, subtle or obtuse.
History – Short Version
Bullying has a long and not-so-proud history dating back at least to the mid-1500s, when the word (or its derivatives) was used. Original variations meant “sweetheart,” “lover” or “brother,” although pinpointing exact origins are debatable.
Eventually, during the 1700s, the meaning morphed into “harasser of the weak,” closer to its current definition. Throughout history, bullying has occurred on an individual basis and, at times, on a grander scale. The feudal system in the UK, China and other countries fostered bullying by the lords upon their subjects.
Even the world-famous founder of China, Chin, needed to bully the population to unify the massive area into a unified country. Creating a centralized government needed drastic measures to bully the thousands of warlords constantly battling each other for territorial control. Establishing the country, in Chin’s day, involved drastic action, from burning books to creating a unified set of laws and the power to enforce them over people whose behavior was formerly subject to the beliefs, philosophy or whims of their individual feudal lords.
Let’s fast forward to current eras. Around the early 2000s, bullying, as a problem, became a growing focus of the US, UK and other developed countries. While mayhem and murder monopolized the front pages, researchers and authorities began to focus on less dramatic types of violence, including bullying.
Only then was bullying identified as a distinct form of unacceptable violence. The shear weight of the historical—spanning centuries—cases of people bullying others, from feudal lords to Nazi Germany, demanded worldwide notice and attention.
Currently, the world has featured attention on the problem and postured ways to minimize or eliminate the issue from the daily life of people, young and older. Legislation in the US and UK originally appeared in the early 2000s. Since then, beyond increased awareness, individual states and countries have adopted new or modified legal measures designed to change this behavior.
Stop Bullying Initiatives
Many observers view the overall initiative to stop bullying as a cultural movement more than a mere legal consideration. As with most cultural changes, first comes awareness, followed by more formal actions targeted at changing bad behavior, accompanied by sets of laws focused on punishing—restricting–continued unacceptable behavior.
There is considerable evidence that enlightened leaders must do more than merely issue proclamations to change the psychological “DNA” of bad behavior. You only need to consider the travails of Abraham Lincoln to understand the challenge. While President Lincoln banned the then-accepted practice of slavery of African-Americans, it still took another 100 years, until the 1960s, to codify specific, effective laws to mandate compliance with Lincoln’s original edict during the US Civil War during the 1860s. Some contend that the slavery, superiority mindset has yet to be eliminated in the 21st century in some circles.
Bullying appears to reside in a similar category. The anti-bullying initiatives appear to have begun (in the English-speaking arena) in Canada around the year 2000. The UK followed, in 2003, with the Act Against Bullying, another attempt to stamp out the problem via action to make people aware of the issue and prescribing penalties for non-compliance.
For more information on UK stop bullying initiatives, visit http://www.bullying.co.uk/ to view more specific measures to further the cultural awareness of the dangers of the problem and action plans to reduce incidents. The UK considers this problem as serious and is making valiant attempts to find solutions on diverse levels.
In the US, almost every state has conducted public initiatives to keep the issue on the front page and has adopted anti-bullying laws to penalize transgressors. However, since bullying, at some levels, has existed for centuries, there is no apparent “quick fix.”
The international rise of the Internet has only served to complicate the problem, introducing a newer type of intimidation, cyber bullying. This form of abuse sometimes results in permanent disaster, such as suicide, when directed at highly vulnerable teenagers, already undergoing massive psychological and hormonal changes as they grow.
The Problem—Growing or Merely Better Publicized?
Of the primary types of bullying –
- Emotional, and
the easiest to eliminate may be the most publicized, physical abuse. In the past, many such situations were eliminated, similar to the more light-hearted treatment in the classic holiday movie, “Christmas Story.” After the local bully consistently terrorizes the elementary school children on their daily walk home from school, our little hero, Ralphie, finally snaps and beats up the much larger and older bully, eliminating the problem.
In the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s, this was the traditional method of reducing or eliminating the situation. However, new social standards render this action plan often ineffective, requiring victims to take no physical action, but just reporting these events to school administrators.
The inherent problem with this approach: Effective solutions depend on school personnel’s commitment to eliminating the issue—and their authority to do so. This creates common questions, the answers to which generate divergent opinions.
- Is this really an increasing problem or is it a massive cultural campaign for creating awareness?
- Can the troubling practice of bullying be reduced by new methods that fit current social conditions?
- Will awareness of the immediate and long-term dangers of bullying, similar to anti-smoking initiatives, spur a behavior change in younger children?
- Do current measures also address bullying types beyond the obvious physical issues?
These are but a few of the questions raised by the highly publicized issue of bullying. In the US, education-related statistics reported that as of 2007, around one-third of school children stated they were bullied, at least once, at or outside of their school. More recent estimates indicate that as many as 75 percent of school children witness, as a victim or bystander, incidents of bullying—every year.
Bullying UK, at http://www.bullying.co.uk/, offers valuable advice for parents, children and schools to effectively handling the problem. Similar organizations, websites and/or “hot lines” exist to address the problem, growing or not. This support, over time, may change this troubling behavior.
Hopes are that via public information dispersal and legislative action will lower the incidence of bullying, as this strategy is now better controlling the formerly common practice of “hazing” (picking on) new or “different” students. However, if witnesses or victims avoid reporting incidents to appropriate authorities or parents, one can only wonder if this approach will be successful.
Recent well-publicized incidents of intimidation, such as the situation with the US professional football team, Miami Dolphins, graphically display the seriousness of damage that can result from non-physical bullying. Publication of the tragic suicides of some teenagers in the US and UK as a result of emotional or cyber bullying also bring the most extreme dangers to the forefront.
While incidents of physical bullying at school may or may not be increasing, there is little question the prevalence of cyber bullying is rising, sometimes with tragic or long-term negative consequences. The goal of educating parents and school personnel to be aware, at a minimum, of the potential lasting results is a primary target of public awareness campaigns, at both the grass roots and national level. Yet, questions remain.
- Will this plan be enough?
- Will stronger, more dramatic effort be needed?
- Is changing schools, when all else fails, an effective action plan?
Time will tell and show us all.
However, as with most deep-seeded behaviors, change for the better, like the journey of 1,000 miles, begins with individuals taking one step. As each step builds a stronger collective resume of taking action, initiatives such as http://www.bullying.co.uk/ gain more traction and influence to change the psychological “DNA” of both perpetrators and victims.