October is National Bullying Prevention Month

(Image via bullyingproject.com)

No one is immune from bullying.

We have all been bullied. We have all been the bully. We may have acted alone or as part of a group. Old and young, we have all been on both sides of the fence.

As children, we may have tried to pretend that it didn’t bother us. Or we may have locked ourselves away in our rooms, wondering when, or if, it would get better.

As adults, we may delude ourselves into thinking that we have never, would never bully anyone.

The following information will help change your mind. It is from the bullying myths and facts pamphlet that is found on www.bullying.org.

What is Bullying?

Bullying is a conscious, willful, deliberate, hostile and repeated behaviour by one or more people, which is intended to harm others. Bullying takes many forms, and can include many different behaviours, such as:

  • physical violence and attacks
  • verbal taunts, name-calling and put-downs
  • threats and intimidation
  • extortion or stealing of money and possessions
  • exclusion from the peer group

Bullying is the assertion of power through aggression. Its forms change with age:

school playground bullying, sexual harassment, gang attacks, date violence, assault, marital violence, child abuse, workplace harassment and elder abuse.

The internet has opened so many new ways for us to communicate. Unfortunately, it has also brought a new form of bullying called cyberbullying.  Some of the different aspects bullying.org has identified with cyberbullying are:

  • cyberbullying is a more cowardly form of bullying because the bullies can sometimes be anonymous
  • the messages can be spread very quickly and to a larger audience
  •  there is no tangible feedback about the consequences of using information technologies to cyberbully others as cyberbullies do not have to own their actions and can remain anonymous
  • in most cases, cyberbullies know their victims, but their victims may not know their cyberbullies

School children are the main focus of bullying.org but much of what is presented can also be used by adults as well.  The following is what you should tell others if you are being bullied.

  • what happened to you and what you did
  • who bullied you and who saw it happen
  • where it happened and how often it happened
  • write down everything that happened to you
  • GET HELP
  • see a doctor if you have injuries and for documentation purposes

If you are the victim of a cyberbully:

  • do not keep this to yourself
  • inform your Internet or mobile phone service provider
  • inform your local police
  • don’t reply to messages from cyberbullies
  • do not erase or delete messages from cyberbullies

As was stated earlier, bullying changes form as we age. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has created, as part of their website, a section called deal.org. This area is for youth and their parents to be informed about different issues that affect everyone. Many of the different forms of bullying that are listed above are found under the category of violence . Clicking on each sub-category of violence takes you to an information page with additional links at the bottom of each page.

As part of a special section on bullying, education.com has gathered information from studies that shows what happens over time to both the person who was bullied and the bully. The person who was bullied has short-term effects such as anxiety, loneliness and low self-esteem. The long-term effects are high rates of depression, social anxiety, pathological perfectionism, and greater neuroticism in adulthood. The bullies, some of whom were bullied themselves, have been characterized as angry, depressed, aggressive, hostile, and domineering individuals when they were children. As adults who still bully, over half of these adult bullies (61%) at 32 years of age were still aggressive and had been convicted of violence (20%).

Education.com also shows how bullies are part of a group and that peer pressure allows them to continue being a bully. Researchers believe that bullies are partly motivated by a pursuit of high status and a powerful position in the peer group. Bystanders seldom intervene so the bullies believes their behaviour is reinforced by their peers. Many of the bystanders realize bullying is wrong but, not saying anything helps keep their status and safety within their peer group. Helping the bystanders understand that changing their actions can help a victim by creating a buffer around the victim. The bully’s behaviour may not immediately change, but it would help minimize the adverse effects of the victim.

Bullying takes so many forms. The effects are long-lasting and touch everyone. It does not stop when we leave school or become an adult and it is not something that “children grow out of”.  There are so many wonderful sites about bullying and prevention. I only took a little information from a few of the sites but the message is constant and clear.  In order for change to happen, we must be willing to change our thinking and actions, to not ignore the problem, to not think it’s a part of growing up and to not stand by in silence.

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