Every child has the right to feel safe at home, at school and in their community. Bullying makes this feeling much harder to achieve. Bullying can take place anywhere: at school, at parties, online, through text messages – not always where educators may be and see. One thing everyone needs to be clear on: Bullying is not a phase children have to go through or something they will just grow out of. Bullying is a serious, widespread problem that demands our attention.
Bullying Broken Down56% of students claim to have witnessed or experienced some type of bullying at school. But what does that look like – what does that mean? Bullying entails an abusive relationship in which one child uses strength or power to control and victimize another. The problem can also occur between groups of children. Bullying usually involves the following elements:
- Hurtful Intentions. Whether physically or psychologically, bullies intentionally seek to cause harm to a bullied child. As such, accidents are not considered acts of bullying.
- Power Imbalance. Bullies are perceived by their peers to be in a physical or social position of power. As a result, bullied children may feel helpless to defend themselves.
- Recurring Behavior. Hurtful actions are committed repeatedly against the bullied child. As a result, the bullied child finds it increasingly difficult to escape the abusive relationship.
Cyberbullying: Abuse Sent and Delivered at Their FingertipsCyberbullying refers to electronic bullying, which primarily includes verbal aggression and relational aggression. Examples include sending threatening or harassing messages (online or offline), spreading rumors electronically, sharing or modifying stored electronic media, etc. With all of today’s social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, some victims never feel safe – even after the school day is over. Visit StopBullying.gov to learn more.
Tough Statistics to Face: The LGBTQ CommunityThe Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) 2015 National School Climate Survey revealed some overwhelming findings. Students between the ages of 13 and 21 experience the following:
- 85% are verbally harassed at school.
- 27% are physically harassed at school.
- 49% are electronically harassed (cyberbullied).
The Hurt Is Heavy for EveryoneChildren who are bullied can suffer short- and long-term effects from withstanding the harassment and abuse. Some effects are temporary (depression, social isolation, health issues, etc.) while others can stay with the child throughout his or her life (low self-esteem, chronic depression, anxiety disorders, persisting health issues, etc.). But it doesn’t stop there – even students who witness bullying suffer negative effects. Short-term effects, such as feelings of guilt and mistrust, and long-term effects, such as mental health issues related to stress, can mark them deeply as well.
Help Leaders Help StudentsTo make impactful change, leaders need to be able to do the following:
- Recognize the signs. Educators may not always witness the bullying or abusive behavior. The first step in ending bullying consists of recognizing the warning signs.
- Leave school with damaged or missing items.
- Have unexplained injuries.
- Are hungry in the afternoon because they did not eat lunch.
- Seem moody or anxious.
- Are suddenly doing poorly in school.
- Avoid certain places and are afraid of being at school.
- Suddenly have fewer friends.
- Often complain of feeling sick.
- Feel helpless and talk about suicide or hurting themselves.
- Hurt themselves.
- Prevent bullying. The most effective and comprehensive anti-bullying programs are developed at the school level.
- Get a clear picture of bullying at the school, and determine where and when incidents occur.
- Increase supervision in bullying hot spots.
- Evaluate the bullying prevention initiatives currently in place.
- Learn how to identify bullying incidents and intervene effectively.
- Enhance your classroom management skills.
- Create policies and guidelines to encourage respectful behavior.
- Establish a school safety committee.
- Encourage students to report bullying incidents.