27 March 2012

Bullying

What is school bullying?

School bullying is characterized by recurrent, unprovoked harassment against children who have difficulty defending themselves.

In fact, the phenomenon of bullying is hard to define as it is manifested in various forms. These manifestations can take the form of Psychological Violence and they can be expressed by spreading rumors, insult, humiliation, racist remarks, threats or terrorism. Psychological violence also includes the deliberate exclusion of students from different social and school activities. Another form of school bullying is Sexual Harassment which is characterized by degrading sexual comments, unwanted touches, forcing the victim to watch or participate actively in sexual acts and rape. Moreover, the child being bullied may sometimes be forced to suffer or participate/act inappropriately in front of others. Physical violence in school bullying is manifested by methods such as hits, pokes, kicking and squeezing. Bullying can be also expressed through the Economic Exploitation of children, for example intimidated theft or damage to their personal belongings.

In recent years another category of bullying was added to the literature, that of Cyber bullying. (cyber bullying). The term Cyber bullying was given first by Bill Belsey and is used to characterize the various forms of psychological abuse associated with conventional blackmail, through the Internet or similar technology for deliberate damage to an individual or a group. Cyber bullying can include the following operations:

  • Teasing/Mocking- humiliation of a individual through the Internet.
  • Continuous sending of obscene content over the Internet.
  • Sending offensive and obscene content through various web applications.
  • Inappropriate content during conversations.
  • Humiliation of a child or teenager, by the creation of a profile or blog, which contains deliberate false and demeaning content.
  • Sending threating emails.
  • Publication of personal videos or photos without consent.

What distinguishes school bullying from mere teasing is the intensity, duration and repetition of a situation and especially the imbalance of power between the parties involved. In other words, the child perpetrator (the bully) is physically superior to the children who is bullied (child victim). In contrast, when two children of the same physical power fight, this incident cannot be described as bullying. Also, it is often the case that the student who is bullied is younger than the bully and has not provoked the bully.

Effects

The effects of bullying are varied, serious and lasting and concern the children, who have been victimized, the bullies and bystanders. The last category refers to the students who remain uninvolved without supporting or protecting any of the sides. They usually feel uncomfortable and indecisive about who is responsible for it or whether the victim deserved the particular treatment.

While the following effects may be caused by other factors, research studies on the topic show these effects to be common in many victims, their abusers and the bystanders of school bullying.

Kids who are intimidated:

  • Are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and some of the symptoms listed below, can persist during adulthood.
  • They have frequent suicide tendencies and may continue until adulthood. In one study, adults who where victims of bullying were 3 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
  • Are more likely to exhibit physical symptoms that include headaches, migraines, skin problems, ulcer, trembling, increased pulse and panic attacks.
  • A survey showed that bullying victims (elementary- school age) were twice as likely to develop psychotic symptoms in adolescence.
  • Are more likely to complain about their health. In one study, the victimization was associated with health status years later.
  • Reduction of children’s school performance and school attendance, as well as increased likelihood to drop out of school.
  • They are more likely to react very violently. 12 out of 15 incidents in the 1990’s where students fired guns in their schools, the students shooters were victims of bullying.
      • Increased feeling of sadness and loneliness.
      • Changes in sleep and eating habits.
      • Loss of interest in activities.

Children who bully

  • They have increased risk of alcohol abuse and drug use during adolescence as well as during adulthood.
  • Are more likely to engage in fights, vandalism and drop out of school.
  • Are more likely to have a premature sexual activity.
  • Are more likely to have problems with the law when they reach adulthood. In one study, 60% of boys who were bullies at school they had problems with the law before they reached the age of 24. Also these people during adulthood are more likely to engage in violence towards their partners and their children and fail to keep their friendships.

Bystanders

  • Are more likely to smoke and abuse alcohol or other drugs.
  • They have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
  • Are more likely to be absent frequently from school.

The Characteristics of the victim

The child who is being bullied usually has an insecure personality

Children who are passive and anxious are more likely to be victims of bullying. They also tend to feel insecure, have a negative view of themselves and cry often. In fact, some researchers believe that the insecurity and lack of confidence that characterize some of the children may put them in the position of the “perfect victim”, since their lack of power and inability to act provokes the children abusers. Children who are victims of bullying are usually more quiet and sensitive than other children.

The victim (child who is bullied) is generally less accepted by its peers

Victims of bullying have fewer friends than children who are not bullied. They are less accepted by their peers, they are not very popular and may have been rejected. These children are usually alone during school breaks. The rejection by peers appears long before bullying.

The child who is being bullied is different somehow

Unfortunately, children with disabilities are more likely to become victims of bullying. For example, children with learning disabilities often report that they are bullied. Children with obvious physical or mental health problems are more likely to be victims of bullying.

The child who is being bullied is physically weak

Children who are shorter, thinner, or with less muscular strength than their peers, are often a target for bullying.

The Characteristics of the abuser

The child bully is popular

They are usually very popular amongst children and have good social skills, which attract supporters, who can be easily handled. The position they have within the group of peers is important as it enhances their power.

The Bully tends to be more aggressive

Children who bully tend to have aggressive intentions towards their social environment and have more positive views about violence. They are impulsive individuals, as they have the need to dominate other children and they show no empathy for their victims.