Author Spiegel

15.06.2020 16:30

Cycle of Abuse: Bullying

bullying in children

Ryan Johnson for NPR

Some say it’s about gaining some control over the other person, others tend to go with the saying that hurt people hurt people. Whatever the reason may be, the results are often devastating. Young people, who are bullied are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school.

 What is bullying? 

Bullying Is unwanted, aggressive behavior most commonly observed among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. To be more specific there are 4 types of bullying:

Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. 

Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. 

Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. 

The most popular modern mix of verbal and social abuse is - Cyberbullying. 

The story of cyberbullying

The most illuminating case so far is that of a  late teenager from Canada. She posted a video on YouTube in which she used a series of flash cards to tell her experience of allegedly being blackmailed into exposing her breasts via webcam. She died by suicide at the age of 15 at her home.

The video then went viral, gathering tens of millions of views worldwide. The cry of help of one teenager went completely unheard but triggered a bigger reaction -  It turned into  a wake-up call to everyone: Bullying is not only a form of problematic behaviour in kids,  it can actually be deadly. 

How widespread is bullying?

Is the Canadian case an exception? It does not seem so.  This behaviour has garnered worldwide attention and statistics show us why: 

According to the Megan Meier Foundation,each year around 5 Million children are affected by bullying in the US alone. That means that one in 5 students is bullied in one or another form. Cyberbullying is most prevalent - Over 60% of students who experience cyberbullying reported that it immensely impacted their ability to learn and feel safe while at school. These youngsters are at a greater risk than others of both self-harm and suicidal behaviors. 

Who is targeted? 

In short the answer is quite simple: It’s something that can happen to a 6-year-old as much as it can happen to a full grown adult. It’s never healthy to think that someone caused or deserved to be bullied. The victims of this social behaviour  are not the “problem”, they are merely the object of someone’s horrible outlet of negative emotions or power-play. 

Why are they targeted?

There is not one specific trigger that causes bullying. Bullies randomly select traits in people they choose to bring down - someone might get bullied because they are smart, or have a scar, maybe even a few extra pounds could be a “good enough” reason for a bully to come after you. But why?

Researchers have pointed out several reasons, as to why youngsters resort to bullying: Low self-esteem, difficult home background, toxic relationships and most of all: bullying. As you see, the bully is oftentimes a victim in one way or another. Young people, who strive to fit in are trying to establish themselves by bringing other people down, the theory is that you won’t be bullied if you bully yourself. This is the most dangerous tendency where the victim retaliates by becoming the villain. 

Can we stop it?

No one is born a bully, but combining stressful environments and the distorted need to fit in can send some to the bullying path. Once this happens, we have to respond: 

As research implies, the way to  minimize bullying, is a combination of rooting out the causes to   avoiding additional vicious cycles, and strong adults' position against such behavior.

It’s imperative that every single participant in the child’s life takes responsibility.

It is at home that children learn about good and bad. Their guardians set the standard of acceptable and intolerable. But if the home environment is unhealthy, these notions, as well as instincts they should trigger, turn upside down. In this case, the education system has to intervene: 

Children spend most of their time away from home in schools.  In theory, schools are safe  places for their development. But the education system worldwide is a breeding ground for bullying and harassment, which sometimes happens in the silence of too many teachers. Either the young people are afraid of telling on the bully, or the teachers dismiss their voiced concerns. Often, the excuse for teachers' indifference to bullying is that they are underpaid or overworked. Whatever the reason may be, children count on adults to protect them, sadly, the system more often than not, fails the children miserably - teen suicude rates associated with bullying seem to confirm that theory. 

The danger of the circle

But what about more severe forms of response? Could punishing the bully for his/her behaviour give the results we desire? Here it’s all about caution. When we punish the bully at a young age, they understand that their behaviour causes them to be punished, so they not only have additional anger towards the victim, but they also learn that the behavior has to be hidden and done without the presence or knowledge of an adult or supervisor. 

To avoid this, specialists often speak about “non-tolerance” to aggression in any form. Fighting bullying involves awareness campaigns, specific attention of adults involved in children’s routine and, most notably, speaking up. Silence is the best enabler of a bully.

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