Bullying is an unfortunate part of our society and particularly effects young people in school, work and social situations. Bullies are essentially insecure and often have emotional problems, as well as a complex need for power, so they exert this through putting down others and engaging in repeated physical, verbal or physiological abuse to their victims. We explore the extent of bullying and provide solutions to young people who feel they are victims of this anti-social behaviour.
Bullying is a massive problem for the youth of today and it is more pervasive than ever thanks to increasing technology capable of taking harassment beyond school, work and social settings into home and everyday life. What is bullying exactly and how severe is the problem? Bullying is defined as the ‘repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological behaviour that is harmful and involves the misuse of power by an individual or group towards one or more persons.’ Cyberbullying refers to bullying through information and communication technologies.’ (1)
Statistics show bullying is relatively common with one in every four Australian school students affected, and cyber bullying effecting about 1 in 10 young people (2). The latter is likely to increase as our lives become digital and youth spend more time online than ever before (3). Disturbing statistics also reveal children who were bullied were up to three times more likely to display depressive symptoms and nine times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, according to some studies (2).
Bullying can take different forms too: social, including gossiping, talking behind a person’s back, and ignoring people from groups; physical: unwanted touching, fighting, stealing someone’s objects; and verbal/ emotional including name calling, intimidation and teasing. All forms of bullying are damaging to a young person, their mental health, self esteem, character and quality of life. Bullying can detrimentally affect a young person’s relationships with their family and friends, confidence at school and to participate socially at work in sports and so forth. Sometimes young people turn to alcohol or drugs or dangerous activities to mitigate unpleasant emotions and feelings.
Cyber bullying in particular is of great concern for a number of reasons. The online world is like the real world replicated with mostly good content out there, but also nasty, hurtful comments. The problem with online bullying is it is very easy for people to see the comments, videos and/or photos and like and share with their networks. In our social media age along with the anonymous nature of the Internet, it is somewhat fashionable (and along with peer pressure) to share negative abusive comments and videos, and it is often marketed as funny. Sexted images gone viral, kids getting bashed, horrible belittling comments putting down kids are just some of the abuse posted online, which is often shared, making the victims feel powerless due to the unstoppable nature of the Internet.
What can kids do about bullying? There are numerous strategies to protect against bullies and fight back. Firstly, tell someone in a position of authority, like a teacher or school counsellor. Kids can often feel stupid, ashamed and upset to tell someone they are being bullied, and may blame themselves. It is important to realise bullying is not your fault, and trusted adults are the best step to finding a solution to the situation. You may also want to confront the bully directly about why they behave that way, and politely ask them to stop, (if it is safe to do so). If a bully confronts you, ignore them as much as possible and don’t have a strong emotional reaction (that is what they thrive on), act as neutral as possible, and the bully will likely get bored and move on (4). So remember bullying is temporary, but action can take place immediately to put bullies back in their place!
By Simon Chitre