Stopping Bullying Behaviors: Advice for Parents and Caregivers (page 2)
Every day in our schools (and communities) children are teased, threatened, and tormented by bullies. Bullying has been identified as a problem that creates a climate of fear, affecting the whole school. Those who fail to recognize and stop bullying behavior as it occurs actually promote violence. If we fail to stop the behavior, we send a message to the bully that “You have the right to hurt people,” and a message to the victim that, “You are not worth protecting.” This message needs to be changed and changed now.
Bullying is a form of abuse.
Harassment And Violence
Harassment and abuse are more accurate names for it. Parents and school personnel should no longer consider bullying “just a part of growing up.” It is harmful to both the perpetrators and the victims and is responsible for behavioral and emotional difficulties, long-term negative outcomes, and violence.
The National Institutes of Health (2000) recently reported that in the United States alone, bullying affects more than 5 million students in grades 6 through 11. One out of 7 students reported being victimized. The violence that erupted at several schools in highly publicized shooting incidents in the late 1990s spurred several State legislatures to propose laws requiring schools to adopt anti-bullying policies. By 2001, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Colorado had passed laws, while others are pending in Illinois, New York, and Washington.
The severity of the problem has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), and other agencies. In response to this critical issue, SAMHSA/ CMHS is launching a Bullying Prevention Initiative with the help of prime-time television, public service messages, and bullying prevention educational materials. This on-going multi-media communication Initiative – titled 15+ Make Time To Listen, Take Time To Talk... About Bullying – will bring this critical message directly to the children, parents and schools affected by these issues.
This article, for parents and schools, is a part of that Initiative. We hope that they and all adults who supervise children will learn what can be done, together, to take seriously their responsibility to prevent bullying among our youth.
Most people know what bullies are
They even know what problems victims of bullies sometimes face: years of constant anxiety, insecurity, and low self-esteem. Yet bullying problems often are ignored or denied.
Large numbers of students have been bullied over long periods of time while nobody paid any attention! Today, however, more people are recognizing that it is a basic democratic right for a student to feel secure at school and not to be troubled by offensive and humiliating treatment. Because of highly publicized school incidents, we now know that ignoring bullying can lead to violence or make a victim feel so overwhelmed that he or she sees suicide as the only way out.
The 15+ Make Time to Listen – Take Time to Talk Initiative has taken the stand:
No student should be afraid to go to school because of bullying, and no parent should be worried that their child may be bullied.
Some Facts About Bullying Among Children And Young People
Generally, we call it bullying when one or more persons repeatedly say or do hurtful things to another person who has problems defending himself or herself. Direct bullying usually involves hitting, kicking, or making insults, offensive and sneering comments, or threats.
Repeatedly teasing someone who clearly shows signs of distress is also recognized as bullying. However, indirect bullying—the experience of being excluded from a group of friends, being spoken ill of and being prevented from making friends—can be just as painful.
Most bullying takes place at the same grade level. However, many times older students bully younger students. Although direct bullying is a greater problem among boys, a good deal of bullying takes place among girls. Bullying between girls, however, involves less physical violence and can be more difficult to discover. Girls tend to use indirect and subtle methods of bullying, such as exclusion from a group of friends, backbiting, and manipulation of friendships. Far more boys than girls bully, and many girls are mostly bullied by boys, but both can be victims of bullying.
These three conditions create a bullying situation:
- Negative or malicious behavior.
- Behavior repeated over a period of time.
- A relationship in which there is an imbalance in strength or power between the parties involved.
Fact: How Much Bullying Goes On?
Major studies in Norway in the 1980s and 1990s with more than 150,000 students found that about 15 percent of students in primary and lower secondary school, or approximately one in seven students, were involved in bullying with a degree of regularity—as a victim, as a bully, or both. At least 5 percent (more than 1in 20) of all students were involved in more serious bullying at least once a week.
In the United States in 1998, the prevalence of bullying was found to be even more substantial. A study carried out with a national sample of more than 15,000 students in grades 6 through 10 found about 30 percent of the sample reported moderate or frequent involvement in bullying—as a bully, as a victim, or both. Students in middle school (grades 6 through 8) reported greater frequency of bullying than did students in grades 9 and 10.
Similar results were obtained in another study of more than 6,000 middle school students in rural South Carolina. About 23 percent reported that they had been bullied by other students “several times” or more frequently during the past three months.
Approximately 20 percent reported that they had bullied other students with the same frequency.
Fact: Where Does Bullying Take Place?
The claim is sometimes made that most bullying takes place on the way to school, not at school. However, research shows that two to three times as many students are bullied at school compared to those who are bullied on the way to school. Approximately 40 to 75 percent of bullying takes place during breaks—in the schoolyard, in the corridors, at recess, or in more secluded places, like bathrooms. It can also take place during classes unless the teacher is attentive and cracks down on any tendencies toward bullying. Without a doubt, school is the place where most bullying occurs. This puts particular responsibility on school leaders and teachers. It is clear that the behavior, attitudes, and routines of teachers and other school personnel have a decisive effect on the extent of bullying in the individual school or class. Of course, parents, caregivers and supervisors in many other places—in kindergartens, playgrounds, and sports and youth clubs, for example—also need to be alert to detect bullying or tendencies toward bullying.
Fact: Who Gets Bullied?
Research gives a fairly clear picture of those who are potential victims of bullying. They tend to have at least one, or usually several, of the characteristics listed below. These lists only indicate main trends; in some cases, victims may be quite different. Potential victims of bullying can be divided into two main groups:
The passive or submissive victim
Most children in this category are not aggressive or teasing in their manner and usually do not actively provoke others in their surroundings. However, passive victims of bullying generally signal, through their behavior and attitudes, that they are a bit anxious and unsure of themselves.
Detailed interviews with parents of bullied boys predominantly of the passive/ submissive type indicate that these boys were characteristically rather careful and sensitive from an early age. Having this kind of personality (possibly in addition to physical weakness) may have made it difficult for them to assert themselves in their group of playmates, which may have contributed to these boys becoming victims of bullying. At the same time, it is obvious that long-term bullying probably increased their anxiety, insecurity, and negative self-image.
The features that can be seen in long-suffering victims of bullying may be both a cause for, and a result of, being bullied.
- These students are usually quiet, careful, sensitive, and may start crying easily.
- They are unsure of themselves and have poor self confidence (negative self-image).
- The boys in this group do not like to fight, and they are often physically weaker than their classmates, especially the bullies.
- They have few or no friends.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Mental Health Information Center.
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