How do you define bullying? 'Kids will be kids' or aggression and harassment?
This newsletter is a continuation of my last message in which I am attempting to “upgrade” your understanding of the issue of Bullying. To better understand bullying, let’s define it.
How we define bullying has an enormous impact on whether we see it as “kids will be kids,” a “rite of passage,” or a reflection of a less humane and violent culture that we have created.
Experts in the field of bullying define it as “aggression or harassment that one or more people direct toward another person.” The person who is targeted usually has less social or physical power. Bullying can include physical aggression, taunting, threats and exclusion. Often, these behaviors are targeted toward someone because of his or her sexual orientation, gender, race, or other characteristics that seem “different.”
Bullying is a relationship problem. It is affected by social norms and can change across different situations. Over time, the same person can be a bully, a victim, or a bystander. And while the consequences for victims are easiest to see, bullying also hurts those who participate in the bullying, those who stand by, and the whole community.” (Quoted from the book Bully).
One cannot ‘feel’ statistics nor ‘feel’ a definition. I have sat with hundreds of children and adults who have been bullied. In their words, emotions, and eyes filled with pain and shame, their stories gave me a felt sense of their experiences and reverberated my own. I have shared about how stress makes our thinking confused and distorted and suppresses our short-term memory. Stress also disconnects us from our humanity. Bully helps re-connect us to real-life, not cyber-life or avatar-life or reality-tv which has been altered for ratings.
Those at risk of being bullied:
1. Children stereotyped because of culture, ethnicity and religion
2. Children labeled with a sexual identity (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender)
3. Children with social skills deficits or special education labels
4. Children labeled with emotional problems or a mental illness
5. Children who are sensitive
6. Children who have experienced trauma
7. Children who do not have peer support
8. Gifted children
Forms of bullying:
1. Physical abuse of power
a. Kicking, pushing, shoving, hitting
c. Taking or breaking someone’s personal belongings
d. Knocking one’s books down
e. Shoving a child into a locker
f. Stealing someone’s lunch money or food
2. Verbal bullying
a. Hurtful teasing
c. Verbal threats
d. Prejudicial remarks
e. Making fun on one’s cultural heritage
3. Relational bullying: meant to damage another person’s relationship through social isolation
c. Talking behind someone’s back
e. Going silent when the target walks in a room
f. Excluding someone from a clique
4. Cyberbullying through social-networking sites and texting
a. To inflict harm or to communicate false, embarrassing or hostile information to or about another person
b. Private e-mails forwarded without consent
c. Threatening texts
d. Verbal attacks on Twitter
e. Embarrassing photos posted on places like Facebook without permission.
1. Feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion
2. Low self-esteem
3. Poor academic achievement
4. Depression and anxiety
5. Can contribute to suicidal behavior
6. 60% of young people who had been bullied in an Associated Press survey in 2009 reported self-destructive behaviors including: smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs or shoplifting.
7. Some bullied children feel the urge to retaliate through extreme violent measures. (in 12 of the 15 school shooting cases in the 90’s the shooters had a history of being bullied)
What can we do?
There is a lot we can do. See the movie Bully and read the companion book. The movie released in April, 2012 is a documentary that began in 2009 after much research by Director Lee Hirsch and Producer Cynthia Lowen. Start the conversation in parent groups and at school. The book and the movie have many stories and examples of how parents, children, schools and communities are joining forces and working together.
At the end of the book are list after list of resources available so you can join in ending bullying. Like each child, each community and school, solutions will be different, too. However many have cleared a path that you can join and bring to your community. Here are a few:
1. http://action.thebullyproject.com/million dedicated to getting one million kids to see the movie Bully.
2. http://standforthesilent.org a program designed to bring empathetic bullying awareness to schools.
3. http://Stopbullying.gov website dedicated to defining the different types of bullying and the right way to respond to them.
4. http://stopcyberbullying.org provided definitions, strategies, and legal considerations relating to cyberbullying. Has a downloadable game to help stop cyberbulling.
5. http://uft.org/campaigns/be-brave-against-bullying The United Federation of Teachers campaign to combat bullying in schools. BRAVE stands for Building Respect, Acceptance and Voice through Education. Their goal is to provide educators with tools, knowledge and support to be proactive in confronting and stopping bullying.
6. http://ncld.org The National Center for Learning Disabilities site to provide information, activities, articles and more for children and teens with learning disorders and their parents.
7. http://americalearns.net/cyberbullying America Learns collaborated with Vanessa Van Petten of Radical Parenting to develop the Cyberbullying Toolkit for Tutors and Mentor.
We have no excuse for allowing bullying to continue or take another child’s life.
Alex in the movie said, “Let our generation be the one to end bullying.”
I’d like to add that we need to be the generation that puts an end to violence as a way to solve our problems, as a way to have relationships, as a way to run our world. Children can’t do this alone. They may be showing us the way we need to go; however, they will need the love, support, and actions of all of us working together toward this goal. Will you be the frog that jumps off the lily pad or will you be the frog that thinks about it and does nothing?