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What Parents and Teachers Should Know
According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 80% of school-age children experience bullying at some point during their school careers. Ten to 15% of students are either chronic victims or bullies themselves. And the data are far more disturbing for students with special needs. A British study indicated that whereas 25% of the general school population reported being bullied, 60% of students with disabilities reported bullying. Ten studies in the United States indicate that children with special needs are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their non-disabled peers, and that the bullying is more chronic in nature and related to their disability.
What is bullying?
Bullying is abusive behavior by one or more students against a victim or victims. It can be a direct attack -- teasing, taunting, threatening, stalking, name-calling, hitting, making threats, coercion, and stealing -- or more subtle through malicious gossiping, spreading rumors, and intentional exclusion. Both result in victims becoming socially rejected and isolated.
Boys tend to use physical intimidation or threats, regardless of the gender of their victims. Bullying by girls is more often verbal, usually with another girl as the target. Cyber-bullying by both boys and girls -- in online chat rooms, e-mail, and text-messaging -- is increasing.
Bullying is a common experience for many children and teens. Direct bullying seems to increase through the elementary school years, peak in the middle school/junior high school years, and decline during the high school years. Although direct physical assault seems to decrease with age, verbal abuse appears to remain constant.
Whether the bullying is direct or indirect, the key component of bullying is physical or psychological intimidation that occurs repeatedly over time to create an ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse.
Students who engage in bullying behaviors seem to have a need to feel powerful and in control. They appear to derive satisfaction from inflicting injury and suffering on others, seem to have little empathy for their victims, and often defend their actions by saying that their victims provoked them in some way.
Bullies often come from homes in which physical punishment is used, where striking out physically is a way to handle problems, and where parental involvement and warmth are frequently lacking.
Bullies appear to have little anxiety and to possess strong self-esteem. There is little evidence to support the contention that bullies victimize others because they feel bad about themselves.
Chronic bullies seem to continue their behaviors into adulthood, negatively influencing their ability to develop and maintain positive relationships, and can experience legal or criminal troubles as adults.
Bystanders also play a role in bullying:
If you suspect your child is bullying others, it's important to seek help for him or her as soon as possible. Without intervention, bullying can lead to serious academic, social, emotional and legal difficulties. Talk to your child's pediatrician, teacher, principal, school counselor, or family physician. If the bullying continues, a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional should be arranged. The evaluation can help you and your child understand what is causing the bullying, and help you develop a plan to stop the destructive behavior.
Who gets bullied?
Victims of bullying may be anxious, insecure, and cautious and suffer from low self-esteem, rarely defending themselves or retaliating when confronted by students who bully them. They may lack social skills and friends and thus are often already socially isolated. Victims tend to be close to their parents and may have parents who can be described as overprotective.
Victims of bullies often fear school and consider it to be an unsafe and unhappy place. Victims will often stay home 'sick' rather than go to school or travel on the school bus.
experience real suffering that can interfere with their social
and emotional development, as well as their
school performance. Some
victims of bullying have attempted suicide rather
than continue to endure such harassment and abuse. Other victims have
taken out their anger and frustration in
violence. Most of the young
people who have caused school-related violent deaths have
been victims of bullying. Experts, pointing to such tragic events as
Columbine, agree that bullying can lead to serious violence, including murder
If you suspect your child may be the victim of bullying ask him or her to tell you what's going on. It's important to respond in a positive and accepting manner. Let your child know it's not his or her fault, and that he or she did the right thing by telling you. Ask your child what he or she thinks should be done. What's already been tried? What worked and what didn't? Help your child practice what to say to the bully so he or she will be prepared the next time.
Other specific suggestions include the following:
A mental health professional can help your child and family and the school develop a strategy to deal with the bullying. Seeking professional assistance earlier can lessen the risk of lasting emotional consequences for your child.
Why don't young people tell adults?
Students typically feel that adult intervention is infrequent and ineffective and that telling adults will only bring more harassment from bullies.
Students are also reluctant to tell teachers or school staff as many adults view bullying as a harmless rite of passage that is best ignored unless verbal and psychological intimidation crosses the line into physical assault or theft.
What can adults do to stop the bullying?
Combating bullying is a mission that requires cooperation between everyone involved. Parents, the school, and the community must work together to stop bullying. A comprehensive intervention plan that involves all students, parents, and school staff can help ensure that all students can learn in a safe and fear-free environment.
This can include
Information provided by Ron Banks, ERIC/EECE Publications, Digests EDO-PS-97-17.
Watch-Dog Organization Reporting on State Anti Bullying Laws & Advocating for Bullied Children
by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz
by Barbara Coloroso
by James Garbarino and Ellen deLara
by John Eldredge
Bully Police USA
Bullying and being bullied linked to suicide in children ~ Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found signs of an apparent connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in children, according to a review of studies from 13 countries.
Bullying, depression, and suicidal ideation in Finnish adolescents: school survey ~ Adolescents who are being bullied and those who are bullies are at an increased risk for depression and suicide. The need for psychiatric intervention should be considered not only for victims of bullying but also for bullies.
Bullying: Lasting Psychological Effects on the Brain During Its Most Formative Years ~ Bullying has lasting, debilitating effects on mental health and self-image, as evidenced by a surge in eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and suicides. Bullied children often spend their adulthoods casting themselves in similar roles, perpetuating the cycle.
Bullying at School: Tackling the Problem ~ An effective anti-bullying program is primarily changing attit
udes, knowledge, behavior and routines in school life.
Bullying - Silence is Acceptance (pdf) ~ Too often, students or adults ignore bullying behavior.
'Cyber Bullying' On The Rise ~ The Internet is a common weapon in the bully's arsenal.
Cyberbullying Research Center ~ Up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents.
Educator's Guide to Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats (pdf) ~ This document provides information about cyberbullying and cyberthreats for educators and other professionals who focus on youth safety and well-being and gives recommendations for a comprehensive school and community-based approach to address these concerns.
Everything You Need To Know About Bullying (pdf) ~ 46-page report from the Bully Police USA.
How to Talk with Educators at Your Child's School About Bullying ~ If your child tells you that he or she has been bullied at school or if you suspect your child is being bullied, here are some things that you can do.
In Memory of Jared High ~ The emotional and physical effects of bullying and the lack of intervention and support from his school brought about depression and a feeling of worthlessness that culminated in Jared's suicide. Excellent site with information on what parents can do to advocate for their child and stop school violence.
Make A Difference For Kids ~ This organization, dedicated to the awareness and prevention of cyberbullying and suicide, was created in memory of Rachael Neblett, and Kristin Settles, two Mt. Washington, Kentucky teens who died as the result of suicide.
Natural Born Bullies ~ Every bully we meet is someone who is being or has been bullied.
Nearly half of kids with psoriasis surveyed report being bullied ~ The Psoriasis Foundation surveyed parents of children with psoriatic disease and found that 44 percent of kids have been bullied by their peers, and 38 percent say the abuse was a direct result of their psoriasis.
Ryan's Story ~ In memory of Ryan Patrick Halligan, a 13-year-old middle-school student in Essex Junction, Vermont who took his life after being bullied at school and online.
Schoolwide Prevention of Bullying ~ How to create a safe school.
STOP Cyber-Bullying ~ "Cyberbullying" is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.
Stop School Bullying ~ Kalamazoo College's site dedicated to creating safe learning environments.
Teens must resist the lure of a pack instinct ~ In the face of peer pressure, saying no to bullying and other abusive and violent acts demands courage. The opposite of courage is conformity.
The Bully and the Bystander ~ Empowering bystanders to take action might be the key to stopping bullies.
The Bullying Circle (pdf) ~ Chart that shows students' reactions and roles in a bullying situation.
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