For a long time, bullying was seen as a rite of passage. It built character and was purported to toughen kids up. A stereotypical belief that a victim has asked for it or done something to provoke the aggressor was prevalent. Children were also led to believe that they’re being bullied because they deserved it, often internalizing this emotion in the process.
Society has changed and is constantly evolving. Bullying is no longer an expected or normalized behavior, and it should not be condoned or deemed a societal norm. While it’s not a new phenomenon, the environment has changed.
In the past, schools were the main playground for aggressors, but this has since changed. Technology has exposed our children to an unobstructed world of communication, the perfect platform for cyberbullying.
This behavior is multifaceted. It’s more than merely having an older child pick on a younger child. Bullying adapts to various situations, locations, and the individuals involved.
The CDC defines the act as “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”.
- Behaviors that are unwelcome to the victim.
- It generally occurs amongst children of school-going age, although it can happen to anyone of any age.
- There has to be a clear power dynamic, with both the victim and the aggressor agreeing that the bully has all of the power.
- The behavior is often repeated as the bully has easy access to the victim. This is amplified by the accessibility of social media and online forms.
The Psychological Impact of Bullying
More often than not, the effects of bullying last a lifetime for both the victim and the aggressor.
From a victim’s perspective, their emotional development is often compromised, and feelings of anxiety and depression arise. This extends well into their adult lives where these problems that were thought to be short term become a chronic ailment.
Examples include sleeping disorders, lack of interest, lack of appetite, increased appetite, and inactivity. Establishing and maintaining relationships have also been proven to be problematic, mostly due to trust-related issues.
The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress states that the adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me” is wildly inaccurate. The emotional trauma has been found to last a lot longer than the physical trauma endured.
In terms of the bully, life as an adult is not what they thought it would be. Their quick to violence personality and short tempers are not well received by society. This makes finding and keeping a job extremely hard, and friendships are often very limited.
Consequences Of Bullying
- Logical consequences: When it comes to reprimanding bullies, the phrase “the punishment should fit the crime” comes into play. For example, if cyberbullying is a problem, taking away the aggressor’s devices is a suitable option, or if sports team status is creating a power dynamic, give them a break from playing. There is no blanket approach to this, and using your discretion will result in logical consequences taking place.
- Loss of privileges: This is the most commonly used form of discipline used for children and is quite effective. From TV privileges to mobile phone and computer usage and even going out, these are just afew of the options at parent’s disposal.
- Support disciplinary action: While this can be difficult, it’s important to stand by the school or authorities if it reaches the point of needing intervention. Bullying should not be tolerated, and this needs to be made explicitly clear. It may seem extreme, but the effects of bullying can merit this approach.
- Skills development: Often, children act out due to frustration. This can be due to a lack of coping skills or the inability to complete specific tasks, which forces them to act out. Identifying areas to work on can reduce the risk of your child becoming a repeat offender.
- Don’t bully-shame: Humiliating your child for doing what they’ve done will do more harm than good. In addition to being a form of bullying itself, it can also result in long term psychological effects.
Legal Implications Of Bullying
While research and evidence clearly illustrate the effects of bullying on children, legislation on both federal and state levels have experienced difficulties regarding this issue. Multiple cases have had to occur for the criminal justice system to take note of the problem and try to find ways to develop legislation to combat it.
An infringement on both the victim’s and the bully’s First Amendment Right makes it hard to regulate what can and cannot be said while on school premises. Freedom of expression has played an important part in shaping America, and finding ways to convict bullies without infringing on their constitutional rights is difficult.
If a child is suffering at the hands of a relentless bully, it may be in their best interest to seek assistance from a bullying attorney. They will be best-versed in approaching the issue, ensuring the victims’ rights are enforced, and the aggressor faces the consequences.
Stopping The Behavior Before It Starts
Frameworks to prevent bullying and educate students on the harm it can do have been put into place in almost all schools in America. All states have anti-bullying laws that offer protection to scholars and act as a deterrent to would-be aggressors.
Most anti-bullying laws require schools to report, document, and investigate the matter as soon as possible. Some schools also offer counseling for both the victim and the bully.
While progress has been made in the fight towards ending bullying, we are by no means at the end of our journey. We need to build on the current frameworks in place if we are to win the fight and transform these ongoing societal issues.
Bullying can no longer be ignored or referred to as a rite of passage; it needs to be properly addressed. Not only does this benefit our children today, but it also assists in preventing long term psychological issues in the adults of tomorrow.