Bullying is a concern for parents, teachers, and children. And this challenge is becoming evermore complex as traditional bullying behaviours are taking new forms on the Internet.
School will be in session again.
Mothers are scanning flyers from department stores to snatch the latest deal on school supplies. Fathers are planning their morning and afternoon pick-up and drop-off schedules. Girls are picking out their outfit for the first day of school. Boys are gearing up for soccer tryouts.
And bullies are cracking their knuckles.
Bullying is no small challenge, and its harmful effects span across North America.
As discussed in the news this past week, Rehtaeh Parsons, a high school student in Nova Scotia, attempted suicide and passed away this year after a series of incidents of cyber bullying. The perpetrators distributed multiple photos of her online and physically raped her.
In Canada, 1 in 3 students are bullied during the academic year. Sadly, of 35 countries that were studied internationally, Canada had the 9th highest rate of bullying for students at the age of 13.
In the United States, bullying has increased over the last decade. Researchers estimate that 1 in 5 students are bullied over the course of an academic year, and 8% of students report to have bullied others.
Bullying involves a perpetrator who intends to harm its victim(s) emotionally and/or physically. Moreover, it includes repeated incidents of emotional and/or physical aggression and is characterized by a power imbalance between two or more individuals.
According to the Canadian Council on Learning, bullying can be broken down into four broad categories: (1) physical bullying, (2) relational bullying, (3) verbal bullying, and (4) electronic bullying. The last of these is a recent phenomenon that is becoming evermore dominant.
Cyber bullying involves online forms of aggression, such as forwarding private photos or information of the victim or writing malicious comments directed at the victim on social networking sites.
Typically, there are more female than male victims of cyber bullying.
In Canada, 73% of victims of cyber bullying reported receiving aggressive emails or instant messages.
In the United States, 1 in 5 teenagers has been cyber bullied and approximately the same number of teenagers have been a cyber bully. Studies show that there is frequently a relationship between online and in-person bullying. Cyber bullying tends to contribute to social exclusion for female victims and tends to result in physical bullying for male victims.
It Often Starts At Home
Researchers have found that the issues that trigger bullying often stem from family dynamics at home. Parents who do not provide a caring environment can harmfully affect their children, who in turn express their discontentment at school. Once the pain of life at home reaches a breaking point, children are more likely to act aggressively towards others.
It Usually Happens at School
Though the triggers that produce bullying behaviour tend to begin at home, the act of bullying typically occurs at school. Studies show that bullying occurs most prominently during recess and in the classroom. Children commonly find their social life at school, so incidents of bullying are more likely to occur on school grounds.
In addition, bullies commonly seek a wider audience to which they can display their power over another. This is especially the case when teachers or supervisors are not present. For instance, schoolyards often lack sufficient supervision, making it easier for bullies to act aggressively towards their victim(s) without any punishment.
How Parents Can Help a Victim of Bullying
Though children do not always tell an adult about incidents of bullying, those who do tend to turn to their parents for help. In fact, 1 in 3 children turn to their mother or father. This is a great time to asses how life for your child is in general- how is their self esteem etc. A Family Counselor can help to assist in communication with your children and working through issues you may not feel confident tackling.
But for those parents whose children have remained silent, these are some warning signs to look out for: unexplained scratches or bruises, unexplained damaged belongings, fear of walking to school or home from school, unpredictable mood swings, anxiety, poor academic performance, and having few friends.
How Parents Can Help a Perpetrator of Bullying
Once an incident of bullying has been identified, the family of the perpetrator of bullying should be notified. Because bullies commonly grow up in dysfunctional families, researchers recommend that schools involve their parents in the process of preventing future incidents of bullying. When parents must commit to actively helping their child, the positive result can be more sustainable in the long run. There are lots of stresses for Parents with back-to-school coming, to get some perspective on this read more here.
Increasing Awareness About Cyber Bullying
In the digital age that we live in, it is also important to help children navigate online social interactions. Social media sites and online forums are often the arena in which modern forms of bullying take place. Parents and teachers can educate children about proper online etiquette and inappropriate behavior. If the triggers of bullying behavior are stopped at home and in the classroom, then we can help decrease incidents of bullying overall.