While some parents may not believe that physical bullying is something that could ever happen to their children or even affect the people they care about, this is simply not true. 282,000 secondary school students — typically young to mid-teenagers — experience physical attacks every month in the United States. With the advent of the smartphone and Internet, there are now more ways than ever for bullies to target victims, but physical bullying remains one of the most effective ways to do so. Learn about the essential Physical Bullying Facts!
Unfortunately, physically bullying is often more easy to spot as it happens because parents or other adults can see the acts happening. These include but aren’t limited to: hitting/slapping, punching, pushing, spitting, tripping and even stealing another child’s belongings. In some cases, physical bullying leads to bruising, cuts or other marks that parents can and should photograph as evidence. In extreme cases, broken bones or other injuries may occur as a result of this type of bullying.
Where and when does bullying happen?
Nearly every child has been a victim of some sort of bullying and school, which should be a safe place for students, is often where it occurs. However, physical bullying can even happen on the street, at baseball practice, in a grocery store or in your own backyard. Enclosed spaces such as a school bus offer the perfect environment for this type of bullying because victims cannot escape.
Physical bullying can start as early as elementary school, and it peaks during the middle school years. Physical bullying tends to decline once more during the final years of a student’s secondary education.
Signs of physical and violent bullying
Parents should look for visible injuries but know that on of the sad physical bullying facts is that bullies try to hide evidence of their actions. Parents who suspect that their child is a bully and who are unable to discuss the issue with their child can look for other signs of bullying:
- Reluctance to go to school or other activities where they may see bullies
- Skipping classes shared with bullies
- Taking strange routes to or from school or other activities to avoid bullies
- A sudden interest in self defense or taking a weapon to school
- Withdrawn, sad or depressed behavior; mood swings
- Thoughts or discussion of harming one’s self or another person
- Low self esteem
- Signs of bullying to younger/smaller siblings
Physical bullying and sexual assault or harassment
Sexual assault falls under the umbrella of physical bullying, but it’s a case that requires special attention because it’s so difficult to discuss and can severely impede a victim’s self worth. Sexual assault includes unwanted touching and forced or coerced sexual intercourse and can be brought to the attention of the local police (see below). Even in children and teenagers, sexual assault is about power and not sex, which is why some bullies may resort to sexual bullying as a way to further attack their victims.
Sexual assault as a form of bullying is more common in teenagers, especially those who are trying to fit in with their peers. Sexual experience becomes one aspect over which teenagers judge each other, and someone who wants to fit in may force sexual activity with someone they bully to achieve this. In some cases, sexual assault between friends or two teenagers who are romantically involved may happen; although, victims of sexual assault may not see it as such if their is a romantic connection.
Other signs of physical bullying
Because bullies are smart, they may target a victim’s belongings. Children who frequently return home with missing items or have a problem “losing,” them may be victims of bullying rather than simply scatterbrained. Furthermore, broken or damaged belongings — such as a backpack that suddenly develops a hole or a text book that becomes ripped — can also be signs of bullying that has escalated past threats or verbal abuse.
If a student reports bullying to her parents, the parents should take these concerns seriously. Parents or adults who suspect bullying should bring it up in a way that assures the victim that the parents are on the side of the victim. Parents should let their children know that bullying is never the victim’s fault. After confirming that there is a problem with a bully, parents may with to talk to their children’s teacher and school administration. Many times, teachers are unaware that bullying is happening because bullies are smart enough to do it in ways that the teacher won’t see or when adults aren’t around. Scary statistics suggest that 1 in 4 teachers will even allow bullying to continue when they have done it, and teacher intervention occurs only 4% of the time according to DoSomething.org.
Some victims may feel more comfortable discussing bullying with a teacher, counselor, family friend or doctor than they do with their parents. Bullies often target smaller and weaker children than themselves. Furthermore, verbal bullying breaks down a victim’s self esteem and often makes the victim feel as though he or she caused the bullying. The sense of shame that comes with bullying can make it difficult to report it to put an end to bullying.
Getting the authorities involved
However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something that parents of bullies can do, especially when it comes to preventing physically bullying. Parents can contact the authorities in most municipalities to report the threat of physical violence, which is also known as assault. If the threat escalates to action, or battery, parents have legal right to report this to the police. This may also be the preferred option of parents whose children have been victims of ongoing bullying and have attempted to deal with the issue through in-house programs at school or another organization.
How to prevent physical bullying
Bullying of any kind often stems from a lack of self worth and an inability to express feelings. This is why people who are bullied at home often become bullies to younger or weaker students at school. It’s especially difficult to reason with a bully who comes from an unstable home situation where he or she has learned this behavior from an older siblings or even a parent.
However, parents can curb this sort of behavior by treating their children with respect and enforcing the importance of treating everyone — regardless of age, sex, size, religion or other differences — with the same respect that the child would like himself. Learning this lesson from an early age and building self confidence in a child decreases the likelihood that he will become a bully.
Adults should never provide encouragement to children who display signs of bullying or physical bullying. Positive reinforcement for dealing with situations in a controlled way can also help teach children that it’s not okay to physically attack their peers, siblings or even their parents.
Furthermore, physical punishment at home has a correlation with physical bullying. According to a study by Andrea Cohn & Andrea Canter, Ph.D., spanking and other types of physical punishment contribute to lower self esteem, which can lead to bullying later on in life. Parents should focus on nonphysical punishments such as the removal of rights to curb bad behavior rather than resorting to physical forms of punishment.
But why is it important to end bully of any kind, and especially physical bullying? Won’t “kids just be kids?” Did you learn not to mess with someone as a child because she finally stood up to you and put you in your place? What can possibly happen from a little bullying?
Unfortunately, bullying is never harmless. In fact, bullying can have far reaching effects. In one study, it was found that students who become perpetrators of homicide were twice as likely to have been victims of bullying. Sadly, there’s a connection between the kid who never fit in and was picked on by his peers and the child who brought a gun to school. The connection is revenge, and more than 85% of perpetrators surveyed in one poll indicated that they wanted to get back at their peers whose bullying had gone unchecked.
Physical bullying at home has also led to violence at school, with greater than 60% of those perpetrators listing home violence as a reason for their shooting attacks. Even in cases where a bully doesn’t design to “get even,” she may opt to drop out of school and abruptly end her education career because physical bullying becomes too much for her to handle.
Parent, teachers, school administrators, law enforcement officers and other community members can join together to create anti-bullying campaigns that educate children about why bullying is wrong, provide increased surveillance of school and other locations where bullying is likely to occur. Schools who opt for smaller class sizes an enforce rules of conduct can also decreased the likelihood of physical bullying, and parents should encourage their schools to examine attitudes about bullying if it has become a problem.