Every day across America, children are being sent to school with the mindset that they are safe as they head to an environment that is intended to support a positive atmosphere of learning and socialization. However, schools across America are plagued with the continuous and aggressive problem of bullying that is effecting our society as a whole. Our children’s physical and emotional well-being is at risk because of the act of bullying. Without proper education, identification, and prevention to promote awareness, bullying will continue to be a major issue.
The following research paper is intended to focus on the effects of school bullying and what society can do to help prevent future bullying from occurring. I aspire to learn the different forms of bullying, while learning what I can do to identify the problem and what the possible solutions to preventing future occurrence are.
Keywords: Bullying, Cyberbullying, School Bullying
Over the years, bullying has become more prominent in our society.
In the past, many adults and educators perceive bullying as something that all children go through; just kids being kids. Children are all effected differently depending on the degree of the bullying, some even ending in tragic events. Being proactive in recognizing bullying can lead to a drastic decrease in bullying cases. Educated professionals are being trained in order to pick up on signs that an act of bullying is happening and how to address and resolve the situation. Thankfully, more and more states are issuing laws to protect the schools and the students against bullying.
As a result, anti-bullying programs were created to provide a safe learning environment for students and have been effective all over the world. In order for us to better understand bullying, we must know what bullying is.
The simple word “bully” can be referred back to as early as the 1500’s. In order to learn exactly what a bully is, you must first break down what a bully is in its simplest form. The act of bullying requires two people, the bully and the person being bullied. By definition, “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. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose (stopbullying.org).” The entire act is dependent upon a disparity of power, the aggressor exhibits that they have more power than the person being targeted.
The act of bullying can be separated into three categories: verbal (name calling, teasing), social (ignoring or isolating), and physical bullying (hitting, kicking). Now with the recent boom in technology, a new form of bullying has now emerged – cyber bullying. In any event, all forms of bullying have a direct result on the victim. Bullying is a form of abuse that carries on over the course of time. “At first one may believe that the effects of bullying is limited to initial responses that tend to fade within a few days or a week, at most. However, research indicates that the harm inflicted by bullying, whether physical or psychological, has implications and can result in a snowball effect of lasting and painful emotions and negative impacts.” (Donegan, 2008).
Although bullying consists of two core components, the bully and the person being bullied, the difference in the type of bullying differs greatly. The person who plays the part of the bully is acting in a conscious, willful, and deliberate activity where the primary purpose is to generate fear through the threat of additional aggressive acts. This further act of aggression and creation of terror creates the lasting impression of intimidation and an uncomfortable emotional sense that the bully uses to maintain power. Once a bully has created this superiority, the bully will continue to victimize their offender. These actions define the most common and obvious form of bullying, physical bullying. In this instance, the aggressor is most often portrayed punching, kicking, throwing objects, or participating in some form of destructive behavior that is both observable and physical. The intimidated victim will most likely dismiss any injuries received to avoid any further incidents. At this point, the bully has already established their control and will continue to exercise their power over the victim.
In many instances, victims have been found to report a combination of physical and verbal bullying. The verbal threatening, taunting, and name calling has been found to be a commonality with physical bullying. “In a survey of big school students, a third of students who were bullied experienced symptoms that sound much like post-traumatic stress disorder: Feelings of panic, repeatedly thinking about past bullying episodes, and inability to concentrate at school. Unfortunately, these feelings of anxiety and distress tend to linger after graduation and into adulthood” (Sharp, 1995). “The adverse impact of school bullying is often exacerbated by the fact that many pupils do not tell of their experience and therefore do not receive appropriate help and support”(Oliver & Candappa, 2003).
With our society constantly evolving, so has the manner in which individuals are bullied. Since the emergence of the internet, social media, and the technological advancements of telecommunications, the ease and the way people communicate has created a breeding ground for young adults to bully one another. Cyber bullying has now transcended the traditional sense of bullying and evolved into a form that allows a person to hide their identity behind a computer. “This anonymity makes it easier for the offender to strike blows against a victim without having to see the victim’s physical response. The distancing effect that technological devices have on today’s youth often leads them to say and do crueler things compared to what is typical in a traditional face-to-face bullying situation” (Donegan, 2012).
Cyber bullying has been defined as “an aggressive act or behavior that is carried out using electronic means by a group or an individual repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself” (Smith, e.t.,al 2008). Examples of cyber bullying include malicious text messages or emails, rumors posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing photos, videos, or fake profiles. Although cyber bullying is often experienced indirectly, as opposed to a face to face confrontation with traditional bullying, the potential for reaching a larger audience is greater. A form of cyber bullying would be posting a status that is intended to be vague, however, is specifically directed towards someone using an insignificant clue that the victim would know is directed at them. Once a publication is made through a social media network, the potential for further sharing increases exponentially. At this point, the repetitiveness for the bullying to continue can carry on by other people, causing a snowball effect. That single act creates a vicious circle that the victim may experience over and over.
Regardless if it is traditional bullying or cyber bullying, a significant amount of research has documented the long lasting impact of bullying on a person’s mental health and academic performance. In many instances, an entire school’s student body is capable of being affected by bullying. A school is intended to design an atmosphere where children experience a positive and inviting environment, where growth and individuality is welcomed and encouraged. However, when a school’s climate is plagued by bullying, there is an inherent fear and intimidation within the school that causes the victim and others to disassociate and reject the notion of a positive atmosphere. The fear of being harassed or excluded by peers in school contributes to dropout rates and poor academic achievement, causing additional victimization. In order to implement a strategy to combat bullying, “schools must include school-level interventions designed to change the overall culture and climate of the school: class room interventions targeting teachers and other adults in the school; and student-level interventions that target individual or small groups of victims and bullies.” (Whitted, 2005). Strategies like this help to revert the power imbalance that a bully thrives on to gain power.
Research on anti-bullying programs have shown that information provided for parents through newsletters and parent meetings proved to be successful. A school atmosphere with a positive line of communication between school administration and the student’s parents helps to raise the awareness of bullying encouraging a drastic reduction in bullying incidents. Other common ways to help combat the effects of bullying included more social interactions for the victim. Educators and parents are urged to have the child participate in organized social activities to initiate new friendships and build confidence with other children for a feeling of belonging. If the child is interested in music, art, or sports, they are encouraged to develop and practice that talent to reinforce confidence and self-esteem. A controlled system with peer support helps victims deal with the interpersonal conflicts of bullying in a pro-active and non-violent way. By being positive, supportive, and embracing the child and what he/she is going through at all times, he will come to respect and cherish himself as an individual and overcome any negative effects bullying may have caused.
When someone thinks back to their days of elementary school through high school, most of us think about “normal” school images- classes, homeroom, and friends. We can all recall some of the struggles; studying for the big test, getting homework completed, making new friends. To me, school was just school. It was something I had to do to become a successful adult. For those victims of school bullying, school is a living nightmare. The harassment, pain, and the series of struggles a bullied person experiences is too much for any normal person to comprehend, especially if they were not bullied personally. School becomes a burden and something that is avoided as much as possible. The victims become stressed with their overflowing insecurities. School work no longer is a priority, avoiding the harassment and humility becomes a primary concern.
Prior to conducting this research project, my knowledge of bullying was very limited. Having not been bullied as a child, my image was simple. The biggest kid in the class would push the scrawny “weird” kid against his locker, and that was the end of it. Now, after reading the numerous studies done on this terrible “epidemic”, I have realized that this is a problem that causes more damage long term than what society thinks- and it effects everyone! My daughter will be entering elementary school in a few years, and as her father I feel that it is important to explain bullying and the effects it has on individuals. No matter if it is verbal, emotional, physical or occurring on social media sites, I feel it is my job, as well as the school’s guidance team to educate and inform my daughter on this serious topic. If we can properly educate people, hopefully someday the negative domino effect of bullying can be reversed to be a positive outcome of the popular plan to “pay it forward”. For someone who was taught “The Golden Rule” as a young boy, it seems simple to me. Treat others the way you want to be treated, and if you don’t have anything nice to say to someone- don’t say it at all. This is something I plan to teach my daughter, and maybe if more people believe and teach this golden rule, bullying will be a thing of the past.
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