The Art of Mocking: The Social, Emotional, and Psychological Repercussions of Bullying
Bullying has always existed in some capacity; there was never a time when children did not experience difficulties with their peers in school. However, the rapid development of social media has enabled children to be humiliated in a wider capacity. Many are belittled and mocked online, at home, and during school hours.
Although bullying is quite prevalent in modern education, many parents tend to dismiss it as a “phase.” They think that bullies will eventually outgrow their belligerent behavior, and victims are told to simply ignore the aggressor until he or she grows bored.
What parents may not realize is that bullying inflicts lifelong wounds. It has different forms and many components, but one of the most important and overlooked aspects of bullying is peer mockery.
“Mocking” is usually perceived to be a form of verbal abuse that takes place in a face-to-face encounter. However, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, what makes peer mockery so dangerous to your child’s growth is its multi-faceted nature.
It is crucial for you to familiarize yourself with the role that mocking plays in schoolyard aggression, and how this mockery impacts your child’s life. You should also learn about the different types of bullying, the signs of bullying that your child may manifest, and the ways in which you can prevent bullying from occurring.
Mockery is an essential ingredient in the art of social mistreatment. Yet it is a slippery word; it conceals itself so well beneath the umbrella term of “bullying” that it often escapes our notice. We allow ourselves to led down a labyrinth of complicated scientific theories, rather than focusing on the heart of the problem.
Bullies torment because it gives them a sense of power; this is what leads them to inflict their victims with physical violence, verbal slander, and emotional turmoil. It not an exaggeration, then, to say that bullying is mockery, and not just in the verbal sense.
Learning about the psychological and emotional consequences of mocking enables you to better understand your child’s bullying concerns.
The growth of technology has permitted many people to find friendships, opportunities, and careers online. Unfortunately, it has also given bullies a new way to torment their victims.
Cyberbullying is a form of public mockery that takes place over social media, texts, emails, and chatrooms. Videos, messages, and pictures can be read and shared rapidly, involving a very large audience in a very short span of time.
This at first appears to be a rather odd problem. After all, why can’t a child who is being cyberbullied simply log off the internet?
Victims of cyberbullying are often victims in real life as well. The bullying follows them wherever they go; they will experience peer abuse regardless of whether they are on their computer, at home, or in school.
Cyberbullying can twist a person’s psyche into dark knots that can be difficult to untangle even in adulthood. Children who experience cyberbullying are at a higher risk for depression and anxiety; they tend to skip school, engage in substance abuse, and receive poor grades. Their entire lives become defined by low self-esteem, fear, and isolation.
Teasing, mocking, scoffing, and taunting are typical manifestations of verbal bullying. This kind of bullying may focus on the victim’s personal appearance, lifestyle, intellect, skin color, or race.
Mocking words can easily burrow into a child’s brain and remain there for the rest of their life. Over time, the child begins to believe that the negative comments (“fat”, “stupid”, “worthless”, etc.) are true.
Verbal bullying can be just as harmful as physical aggression; it can have very real consequences, even if the bully never actually touches the victim. Many victims of verbal bullying turn to drugs to escape; in extreme cases, they turn to suicide.
This type of bullying involves actual physical force, such as spitting, shoving, or punching. It is most common in academic institutions.
This is a particularly humiliating form of social mockery because it is blatantly corporeal; no amount of willpower can prevent it. It targets physical weakness, where the victim is made to feel ashamed of their shape or size—which can then have emotional and psychological repercussions later on in life.
The goal of emotional bullying is to distress or wound the victim on an emotional level. This can include excluding them from activities, starting rumors, or refusing to speak to them. Emotional bullying is often inflicted by girls, who usually prefer subtle methods of bullying to full-blown physical encounters.
Psychological Consequences of Bullying
Many parents tend to dismiss peer mocking; they tell their children to “ignore it,” or they perceive bullying as nothing other than a passing “phase.”
However, studies have repeatedly proven that bullying has negative consequences on a person’s psychological state, and that these consequences are tragic, extreme, and long-lasting.
Decreases Motivation and Increases Depression
Children who are regularly persecuted in school lose the interest to attend at all; nearly 50% of bully victims reported that being bullied negatively affected their desire to pursue higher education.
Studies have also revealed that over half of those who had experienced bullying thought about suicide. 20% converted thought to action, and actually did try to commit suicide. Victims of bullying also have three times the chance of experiencing severe depression.
Influences Brain Chemicals
One study decided to examine the responses of bullied mice (mice have similar responses to stress as humans). A small, young male mouse was placed in 10 different cages on 10 different days. In each situation, he was forced to interact with a bigger, older mouse; he was repeatedly knocked around by the bigger mouse in each situation.
Afterwards, scientists examined the brain regions that are involved in emotion and social behavior (such as the amygdala and the lateral septum). Interestingly, both areas had become more sensitive to vasopressin, the hormone involved in social interactions (including male-male aggression).
Several conclusions were reached about the chemical balance of the bullied mice:
- The genes in the hormone receptors of the bullied mice had become more active.
- This leads to the production of additional hormone receptors.
- When a region of the brain has many hormone receptors, more hormone molecules are permitted to enter.
- This makes the specific brain region more affected by the amount of hormone molecules that are in its midst.
- This could in turn lead to an excessive amount of chemical sensitivity, as well as overt brain stimulation.
Another study found that human subjects who had been mistreated by their peers had abnormalities in the corpus callosum (involved in visual processing and memory). Their neurons were shown to have less myelin (a coating that speeds up communication between the cells). In an organ where milliseconds matter, cell communication is crucial, and these results indicate that the brains of bully victims lack normal brain cell activity.
Bullying has been shown to inhibit social growth; it impacts behavior and personality well into adolescence and adulthood.
Creates Negative Life Patterns
Bullying victims cope with more stress on a daily basis; thus, they are prevented from developing natural coping abilities. This causes bully victims to become aggressive in relationships when they reach adulthood; they can resort to violence to resolve conflict because they never developed normal ways of dealing with stress.
Causes Social Isolation
Bully victims have trouble maintaining a regular social life because their bullying problems frighten away friends. Youth, particularly teens, find it hard to stand up for a friend who is being bullied; they are afraid that they will then become a target themselves. As a result, bully victims will lose the friends they possess and have trouble making new ones.
When a child is being bullied, they will frequently manifest a series of specific symptoms. Familiarizing yourself with these signs allows you to recognize them quickly in your own child, and can help you take preventative action.
Even if your relationship with your child is close and affectionate, he or she may still not inform you of bullying. However, bullied children typically demonstrate:
- Issues with sleeping and eating.
- Increased anxiety.
- Refusal to attend school or other social situations.
- Changes in behavior (may seem angry, teary, or depressed).
- Changes in physical appearance, such as weight loss/gain or headaches.
- May have unexplained cuts and bruises.
If your child is showing any of these signs, it is important to sit down and discuss the matter with them. Find out what they are going through and how long the bullying has been taking place. Never judge or reproach them for not confiding in you, because often this lack of confidence is not personal.
There are three main reasons why children do not inform adults of bullying: dismissal, rejection, or weakness.
Some children feel as if they will not be taken seriously. Many victims have stated that they reported bullying the first time, only to have their complaints completely ignored or disregarded.
They are also concerned that the adults will prove to be unhelpful, and this is not always untrue. Some adults will tell victims to just ignore the treatment, while others are supportive of the bullied child but fail to take steps that will prevent the bullying from reoccurring.
Another reason children do not talk to adults about bullying is because of fear. They do not want to be seen as a tattle-tale, and they are frightened that they will expose themselves to further mockery from their peers.
Other children remain silent because they are powerless, and they feel as if they somehow deserve to be bullied. Still others are afraid that adults will perceive them as emotionally “weak.”
Parents can take certain steps beforehand that can prevent their child from being bullied:
- Keep the family computer in a high-traffic area of the house.
- Set up chat accounts and emails with your children, making sure you know their passwords, screen names, and friends.
- Make sure that they are not including any personal information on their profiles.
- Familiarize yourself with the acronyms commonly used online in chatrooms and social media.
- Discuss cyberbullying with your children. Ask them if they have ever seen it or if it has ever happened to them. Assure them that you will not judge them if they have been cyberbullied.
- Emphasize that you won’t take away their computer privileges
Always keep in mind that bullying escalates because children feel alone. When you are involved in your child’s social life, this feeling of isolation can diminish, or at least drastically decrease.
Parental Involvement Is Necessary
Being involved in your child’s social life may seem intrusive, but it is important to remember that parents can play a key role in the proliferation of bullying. Many parents these days want to “leave the kids alone,” but that is actually the worst thing to do to a bullied child.
Parents have always monitored their children’s behavior, even in the days of strictly face-to-face social interaction. They would keep track of their children’s friends and the families they associated with, regularly monitoring their activities, play dates, and engagements.
With the frequency of school bullying (and cyberbullying in particular), parental involvement is more important now than ever before.
You Can Help
Social media has allowed bullying to swell to monstrous proportions. It has become much too easy for children to feel trapped, unloved, or persecuted.
Mocking and the role it plays in bullying can lead to social, psychological, and emotional damage. It is important to study the many facets of social mockery, and to learn the signs of bullying so that preventive measures can be taken right away.
It does not matter if it is on the internet, in the classroom, or on the playground; bullying has serious repercussions. Familiarizing yourself with this issue can help you understand your child, and enable you to prevent further persecution from occurring at home and in schools.