As a young girl, I had very low self-esteem and was obese. Throughout my school years I was teased, tormented and emotionally tortured about living in the “slums” and for wearing worn clothes. My siblings and I lived in group homes and at times we lived with distant relatives, so we changed schools a lot. I grew up being bullied, but I didn’t know what it was called at that time; but I knew it hurt and it made me afraid to go to school for fear of being ridiculed and made fun of.
As an adult, I am committed to raising awareness about ending bullying in our homes, schools and communities, so that my sweet six-year-old granddaughter has the opportunity to go to school without fear of being bullied.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Education, in 2014 they released the first federal uniform definition of bullying for research and surveillance. The core elements of the definition include: unwanted aggressive behavior, observed or perceived power imbalance and repetition of behaviors, or high likelihood of repetition. There are many different modes and types of bullying.
The current definition acknowledges two modes and four types by which youth can be bullied or can bully others. The two modes of bullying include direct (e.g., bullying that occurs in the presence of a targeted youth) and indirect (e.g., bullying not directly communicated to a targeted youth such as spreading rumors). In addition to these two modes, the four types of bullying include broad categories of physical, verbal, relational (e.g., efforts to harm the reputation or relationships of the targeted youth) and damage to property.
Bullying can happen in any number of places, contexts, or locations. Sometimes that place is online or through a cellphone. Bullying that occurs using technology (including, but not limited to phones, email, chat rooms, instant messaging and online posts) is considered electronic bullying and is viewed as a context or location.
Electronic bullying or “cyberbullying” involves primarily verbal aggression (e.g., threatening or harassing electronic communications) and relational aggression (e.g., spreading rumors electronically). Electronic bullying or cyberbullying can also involve property damage resulting from electronic attacks that lead to the modification, dissemination, damage, or destruction of a youth’s privately stored electronic information.
Some bullying actions can fall into criminal categories, such as harassment, hazing, or assault.
DEFINITION OF BULLYING
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.
In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:
An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once, or have the potential to happen more than once.
Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
28% of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying.
20% of U.S. students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying.
Approximately 30% of young people admit to bullying others.
70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools.
70.4% of school staff have seen bullying.
62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% witness bullying once a week or more.
When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.
9% of students in grades 6–12 experienced cyberbullying.
15% of high school students (grades 9–12) were electronically bullied in the past year.
However, 55.2% of LGBTQ students experienced cyberbullying.
How Often Bullied
In one large study, about 49% of children in grades 4–12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the past month, whereas 30.8% reported bullying others during that time.
Defining "frequent" involvement in bullying as occurring two or more times within the past month, 40.6% of students reported some type of frequent involvement in bullying, with 23.2% being the youth frequently bullied, 8.0% being the youth who frequently bullied others, and 9.4% playing both roles frequently.
Types of Bullying
The most common types of bullying are verbal and social. Physical bullying happens less often. Cyberbullying happens the least frequently.
According to one large study, the following percentages of middle schools students had experienced these various types of bullying: name calling (44.2 %); teasing (43.3 %); spreading rumors or lies (36.3%); pushing or shoving (32.4%); hitting, slapping, or kicking (29.2%); leaving out (28.5%); threatening (27.4%); stealing belongings (27.3%); sexual comments or gestures (23.7%); e-mail or blogging (9.9%).
Where Bullying Occurs
Most bullying takes place in school, outside on school grounds and on the school bus. Bullying also happens wherever kids gather in the community. And of course, cyberbullying occurs on cell phones and online.
According to one large study, the following percentages of middle school students had experienced bullying in these various places at school: classroom (29.3%); hallway or lockers (29.0%); cafeteria (23.4%); gym or PE class (19.5%); bathroom (12.2%); playground or recess (6.2%).
How Often Notified
Only about 20 to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying.
TYPES OF BULLYING
There are three types of bullying:
Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:
Inappropriate sexual comments
Threatening to cause harm
Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:
Leaving someone out on purpose
Telling other children not to be friends with someone
Spreading rumors about someone
Embarrassing someone in public
Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes:
Taking or breaking someone’s things
Making mean or rude hand gestures
Where and When Bullying Happens
Bullying can occur during or after school hours. While most reported bullying happens in the school building, a significant percentage also happens in places like on the playground or on the bus. It can also happen travelling to or from school, in the youth’s neighborhood, or on the Internet.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.
The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:
Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter
SMS (Short Message Service) also known as Text Message sent through devices
Instant Message (via devices, email provider services, apps and social media messaging features)
With the prevalence of social media and digital forums, comments, photos, posts and content shared by individuals can often be viewed by strangers as well as acquaintances. The content an individual shares online – both their personal content as well as any negative, mean, or hurtful content – creates a kind of permanent public record of their views, activities and behavior. This public record can be thought of as an online reputation, which may be accessible to schools, employers, colleges, clubs and others who may be researching an individual now or in the future. Cyberbullying can harm the online reputations of everyone involved – not just the person being bullied, but those doing the bullying or participating in it. Cyberbullying has unique concerns in that it can be:
Persistent – Digital devices offer an ability to immediately and continuously communicate 24 hours a day, so it can be difficult for children experiencing cyberbullying to find relief.
Permanent – Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment and other areas of life.
Hard to Notice – Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place, it is harder to recognize.
Effects of Bullying
Bullying can affect everyone—those who are bullied, those who bully and those who witness bullying. Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, substance use and suicide. It is important to talk to kids to determine whether bullying—or something else—is a concern.
Kids Who Are Bullied
Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school and mental health issues. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:
Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, as well as loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
Who Is At Risk?
No single factor puts a child at risk of being bullied or bullying others. Bullying can happen anywhere—cities, suburbs, or rural towns. Depending on the environment, some groups—such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) youth, youth with disabilities and socially isolated youth—may be at an increased risk of being bullied.
Children At Risk of Bullying
Generally, children who are bullied have one or more of the following risk factors:
Are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what kids consider “cool”
Are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves
Are depressed, anxious, or have low self esteem
Are less popular than others and have few friends
Do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention
However, even if a child has these risk factors, it doesn’t mean that they will be bullied.
Children More Likely to Bully Others
There are two types of kids who are more likely to bully others:
Some are well-connected to their peers, have social power, are overly concerned about their popularity and like to dominate, or be in charge of others.
Others are more isolated from their peers and may be depressed or anxious, have low self-esteem, be less involved in school, be easily pressured by peers, or not identify with the emotions or feelings of others.
Children who have these factors are also more likely to bully others:
Are aggressive or easily frustrated
Have less parental involvement or are having issues at home
Think badly of others
Have difficulty following rules
View violence in a positive way
Have friends who bully others
Remember, those who bully others do not need to be stronger or bigger than those they bully. The power imbalance can come from a number of sources—popularity, strength, cognitive ability—and children who bully may have more than one of these characteristics.
If you or someone you love is being bullied, please report it to the appropriate authorities. For more detailed information and support, go to www.stopbullying.gov.
Click here to listen to my recent podcast on What Is Bullying:
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