Bullying is an unwanted aggressive and coercive behavior that can have a traumatic impact on the lives of children.
Sadly, we live in a time when bullying is a regular occurrence in schools around the country. Yet instances are often not reported due to a misunderstanding of the various ways that bullying manifests, as well as feelings of shame that accompany being bullied.
Before it can be eradicated or dealt with, it’s important to understand the various forms of bullying, and how to handle the traumas the acts evoke.
We’re Living During A Bullying Epidemic
When looking at statistics about the imbalance of power in schools, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how serious the problem is. For example, 1 in 95 children report being bullied in Palm Beach, however, Duval County claims that only 1 in 4,700 children are bullied.
This large discrepancy can largely be attributed to the lack of reporting. In fact, up to 64% of victims don’t report the offense against them. Often times, the lines are blurred between bullying and “playful banter”.
So, what exactly is bullying? And how does it rear its ugly head in the school environment?
This is the most obvious form of bullying. Pushing, hitting, prodding, and shoving are all physical acts of bullying. Physical bullying is normally done by a bigger and stronger kid to a smaller one.
Physical bullying is normally the easiest to recognize. The aggressive form of control is the notorious poster image of bullying, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Mental & Emotional Bullying
Both verbal and relational bullying are very harmful acts. With verbal bullying, the perpetrator will resort to name-calling and relentless insults to gain an edge over another teen.
Unlike physical bullying, verbal bullying is more difficult to pinpoint, and a lot easier to brush aside with a simple “stick and stones” comment – which is not always the case.
Relational bullying is equally as sneaky and uses social manipulation to isolate a teen and toy with their emotions. Relational bullies belittle and ostracize others to improve their own social standing.
Both verbal and relational bullying can have dire effects on a teen’s mental and emotional wellbeing. The scars are internal, and the wounds are a lot more difficult to heal. Mental health counseling with a trusted organization is a step towards this healing.
Technology has developed at such a rapid rate that cyberbullies have found their place on the internet, perfectly primed to attack the self-confidence of unsuspecting teens.
Cyberbullying can manifest in various ways with the intention of embarrassing, threatening or harassing teens.
These hurtful comments and images are sent from the safety of being behind the screen and oftentimes, bullies lack the confidence to express the insults face-to-face. One of the biggest struggles of being a victim of cyberbullying is the inability to escape the bully as they push invasively push boundaries.
Even though this may not always happen at the school premises, cyberbullying can have a serious impact on the teen’s school life by affecting their confidence and self-esteem.
This occurs when a person is repeatedly targeted with hurtful or humiliating sexual actions. These actions can be both verbal and physical such as crude name-calling, inappropriate touching or vulgar gestures.
“Sexting” is another form of sexual bullying that overlaps with cyberbullying. Normally, girls are the victims of this form of abuse. However, it can happen to boys just as easily.
A lot of bullying happens on the grounds of prejudice towards race, sexual orientation, and religion. This can manifest in a variety of ways and can have a very serious impact on an individual’s confidence.
Prejudical bullying is particularly dangerous as it can easily lead to hate crimes.
Are you, a friend or student being bullied at school? Often, bullying results in the target feeling shame which can prevent them from coming forward about their situation. This can make it tricky to identify when someone is being bullied – or pinpoint the bullies themselves.
Bullies typically demonstrate certain traits that develop from a point of insecurity and anger. Aggressive behavior, lack of empathy, lack of guilt, anti-social behavior, and learning disabilities are a few aspects to look out for.
Victims of bullying also have some tell-tale signs. Physical bullying can leave unexplained bruises, cuts and even damaged belongings.
Victims can also be anti-social and often act fearfully. In serious cases, they begin to lose interest in school and their performance can drop. They may also complain regularly about headaches, stomachaches, and other physical pains.
How To Respond To Bullying
Bullying is unacceptable. In order to stop the epidemic, it’s important to play a role in whatever way that you can. Whether you are being bullied, know a friend or student being bullied or are a bully yourself.
If You Are Being Bullied
It’s important to remember that you are not alone. If you are being bullied, you need to get help. And, if you’re struggling with feelings of shame or embarrassment, then you there are certain steps that you can take to keep yourself safe.
- Stay safe – avoid areas where you feel vulnerable, especially before class or during break time. For example, try to stay in close proximity to adults during lunch and sit next to the driver when on the bus.
- Protect your online presence – be careful of who you give your cell phone number to, don’t initiate online chats with strangers and report any threatening or offensive messages.
- Find someone that you trust – although it may be difficult, try to share your experiences with someone older who can help the situation. Bullying is often the result of a power-play and speaking to a teacher can give you extra confidence.
If You Witness Someone Being Bullied
People who are being bullied often feel isolated and alone. If you see someone being bullied, it’s important to be brave and tell someone about the situation.
You can even take it one step further and befriend the victim. You never know how far a few kind words can go.
If You Are A Bully
If you’re reading this and you are a bully – it’s not too late to change. It’s not unusual for people who are being bullied to bully others, giving you a false sense of power. However, transferring your insecurities into aggressive behavior only makes the matter worse. And it won’t leave you feeling rewarded.
There are people that you can talk to and get help. Whether you’re struggling with anger management or another issue, there is help available.
Be Bigger Than The Bully In Front Of (Or Within) You
There’s a saying, “Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke”. Being the victim of bullying can snuff out your fire, but you are not alone. Bullying can make you feel isolated, but it’s important to have courage and ask someone for help.
If you’re too nervous to stand up to the bully alone, speak to someone else that can intervene – whether it be a friend, a teacher or your parents.
At Fifth Street Counseling Center, we offer professional and meaningful counseling sessions to help overcome the traumas that bullying introduce. Call us at (954) 797-5222 to find out more and to learn about our new video counseling services. We’re doing our part to keep your health and mental health safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.