Bullying in the United States
Bullying is the use of forceful coercion, threat, or intimidations so as to hurt, demean, or dominate others. From historical times, bullying has been a serious social problem in the United States. According to Koo (2007), a majority of Americans have fallen victims to bullying at some point in their lives. Although bullying is also experienced by some adults, Turner et al. (2013) notes that, bullying is more prevalent among children and teenagers. Moreover, bullying is predominantly prevalent among the school-going age, with a majority of victims reporting being bullied while in schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, at least 22% of all school going children is bullied during the school year (2015). However, it is estimated that only 36% of the bullied children report the abuse while 64% continues to suffer from the bullying intimidations without the knowledge of teachers or guardians. Bullying results in adverse effects, both to the victim and the bully. It may lead to severe mental disorders including depression and anxiety, and may even prompt the victim to commit suicide. Even though some of these adverse impacts are also experienced by the bullied adults, Turner et al. elaborate that children are worst affected due to their inability to address the issue (2013). Further, the impacts of bullying on a child may be long-lasting, affecting them even during adulthood. Therefore, there is urgent need for the community to establish ways of curbing bullying in children so as protect them from bullying adversaries. It is on this ground that this paper discusses the different types of bullying and their effects on children and proposes some of the possible solutions to vice.
Bullying among the children and adolescents is not a new challenge for the American community. As Koo (2007) narrates, bullying was a critical issue in the 18th and the 19thcenturies. However, the community’s perception of the problem then was different from how it is today. According to Koo, the society’s understanding of bullying was not as elaborate as it is in the 21st century (2007). Some of the behaviors and actions that are characterized as harassment were viewed as typical aggressive behaviors among growing children and teenagers. However, scientific studies reversed this notion, identifying bullying as an abnormal and preventable issue in society.
The term bullying was little known until 1862 when The Times newspaper published a story of a soldier who had allegedly died as a consequence of bullying. The death of the soldier was astonishing to many, given that bullying was a normal and acceptable behavior. From this publication, however, the newspaper raised the society’s awareness of bullying behavior. As Koo explain, the story of the soldier’s death evoked interest among the scientists, provoking a series of studies on bullying phenomenon (2007).
Even though studies on bullying began as early as the 19th century, a significant milestone in the study of bullying was not achieved until late 20th century. As Koo explains, Dan Olweus became the first psychologist to publish an extensive study on bullying in the mid-1970 (2007). Olweus conducted a systematic research on bullying in schools from which he concluded that bullying was a serious problem among the school-going children. Consequently, Olweus established the first antibullying program, dubbed Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP). The program did not only succeed in reducing incidences of bullying but also in sensitizing the scientific community to embark on studying and establishing firm solutions for the issue.
By the end of the 20th century, bullying had gained increased publicity, with scientist partnering with school administrations to stop the vice among the children. Various incidences such as suicide and school shootings were being attributed to bullying as it would emerge that most perpetrators were victims of bullying prior to the occurrence. The American’s awareness of bullying reached a decisive level in 1999 after the Columbine High School shooting that left 14 teenagers and one teacher dead and scores injured. As Koo narrates, the shooting was allegedly committed by two teen boys who were believed to have been victims of bullying (2007).
The issue of bullying among the children would inflate in the 21st century following the emergence of the modern means of communication. For instance, the use of mobile phones and the internet created new ways for bullies to reach out to their victims. These modern media gave rise to the cyber bullying, which is among the dominant forms of bullying in America today. As a result, the 21st century witnessed unprecedented changes in the trends and characteristics of bullying. Despite the society awareness on the issue of bullying, the vice is presently associated with various adverse outcomes among the children. For instance, bullying is attributed to the increased rates of suicides among the children and teenagers in the US. In response to the growing bullying problem, the United States’ federal government defined laws declaring bullying behaviors as illegal. Further, different programs such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and non-governmental organizations have embarked in fighting bullying in schools, along with the ancient OBPP that has survived to date.
Types of Bullying
There are four common types of bullying classified depending on the manner in which each occurs. Understanding the different kinds of bullying is paramount in developing their solution since each may require a different approach. The first universal category of bullying behavior is the physical victimization. Physical bullying involves any form of physical aggression that may range from assault, pushing, blocking, or inappropriate touches. Children may not report when physically bullied. However, physical bullying is a mistreatment that is easily detectable among the children. Often, victims of physical bully exhibit signs of physical struggles that may include bruises, bumps, torn clothes, or difficulties in walking. They may also complain of headaches or stomachache or pains in any part of the body that may have been hit by the bullies. On severe incidences, victims of physical bullying may need medical attention, in addition to the psychological care needed by all the bully preys (Kowalski, Giumetti, Schroeder & Lattanner, 2014).
The second common type of bullying is the verbal harassment, which involves insults, use of inappropriate language, and undue criticisms. While the perpetrators of physical bullying use their hands or other objects to inflict pain on the victim, verbal aggressors use spoken language to intimidate their victims. Often, it is not easy for a non-present party to notice an occurrence of verbal bullying unless the victim or, in rare cases, the perpetrator talks about it. Therefore, it is hard for teachers and parents to find out when a particular child is verbally abused. However, verbal abuse can take a toll on the victim just as any other form of bullying. Notably, victims of verbal bullying may exhibit a low level of confidence, self-esteem, among other associated mental disorders.
Relational bullying, also called social bullying, is the third common type of bullying among children and teenagers. Relational bullying is a tactical seclusion of an individual, preventing them from interacting freely with their peers. Relational bullies prevent their victims from being part of social groups, be it academic discussion groups, lunch table, or sports partners. As a result, the secluded child is tormented and often withdraws from the peer group. Similar to victims of verbal bullying, socially segregated individuals experience emotional pain, which may be as strong and pervasive as the physical pain. Moreover, Kowalski et al. (2014) argues that the emotional pain is far disruptive in the life of the victim as it lasts longer than the physical pain.
The fourth predominant type of bullying in children and teenagers is the peer mistreatments that occur in cyberspace. Commonly known as cyberbullying, cyberspace aggression is the newest form of victimization that has emerged as a result of the developments in technology.Acts of cyberbullying include any inappropriate or demeaning message transferred to the victim electronically. It also includes rumors that are passed on to groups of peers regarding the victimized fellow. With the increased access to social media platforms among the children and teenagers, cyberbullying has become the most rampant form of intimidation in schools(Kowalsk et al., 2014). According to Kowalski et al. (2014), seven in every ten teenagers have fallen victim of one or more forms of cyberbullying in the course of their digital platform interaction. Disturbingly, incidences of cyberbullying have been on the rise in the past few years. As a result of the rapid changes in the children’s use and access to cyberspaces, NCES complains that it is usually difficult to track and develop a practical solution for cyber harassment. Thus, cyber bullying among the adverse impacts of technology that continues to wreak havoc on the children and teenagers.
Effects of Bullying on Children
Although most parents and teachers are concerned about the impacts of bullying on the bullied child, studies show that intimidations affect not just the victims but also the perpetrators and the observers. According to Turner et al. (2013), bullying may result in short term or long term effects in a child’s life. In severe and habitual incidences of bullying, a child may experience permanent mental or physical health conditions that may persist even to adulthood. The impact of bullying differs depending on the nature and duration of the torment. Victims, perpetrators, and bystanders experience varying adversities.
Impacts of Bullying to the Victim
In addition to the physical symptoms of bullying such as lumps and bruises, bullied children go through an extensive range of negative experiences. First, they are likely to develop different types of mental and emotional problems. For instance, victims of bullying are at a higher risk of developing depression, sleep disorder, and anxiety disorder, owing to frequent exposure to one or more forms of bullying. They also tend to feel lonely even when in the company of parents or peers, especially the victims of social bullying. Further, harassment may result in the lack of emotional control and low levels of resilience.
As a result of related mental instability, bullied children may perform poorer than their peers in normal life activities. For instance, prolonged exposure to peer harassment may lead to disconnect with school and academic activities, leading to low grades and school dropouts. Also bullied children may exhibit low self-confidence and self-esteem. They may also develop other health problems such as lack of appetite and weight loss. Additionally, some children may resort to suicide so as to escape the wrath of the bullies. Over the decade, studies have linked bullying to the suicides and attempts to commit suicide. For instance, bully victims are two to nine times more likely to commit suicide than their normal peers (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015). Also, bullying victims may become defensive and extremely violent to the bullies. Retaliatory violence has been linked to schools violence, including incidences of school shootings. Statistically, 70% of the school shootings that took place in the 1990s were committed by a bully victim.
Impacts to the Bully
Even though the bully child may appear as a hero in the eyes of the other kids, the habit of harassing others may lead to long-term torments in their lives. For instance, bullies tend to be undisciplined in schools and also likely to develop violent behaviors (Kowalski et al., 2014). As a result of being disorderly, they also record poor performance in schools and are at a higher chance of dropping out of schools.They also tend to engage in risky behaviors such as drug and substance abuse and teenage sex. Such risky behaviors expose them to various threats such as juvenile arrests and sexually transmitted infections. Additionally, bullies tend to become violent even in adulthood and may become abusive to their spouse and children. Thus, bullying may equally result in adverse impacts to the bully just as it does to the victims.
Children who witness their peers being bullied are also affected psychologically and emotionally. Those who witness bullying incidence tend to take sides, either gang up with the bully or support the victim. In some circumstance, the witness may be compassionate towards the victim but is may not be in a position to help them. Thus, they may develop guilty feelings due to their inability to rescue the victim. On the other hand, a bullying witness may gang up with the bully to extend the oppression, even though it is contrary to their wish. According to Kowalski, et al. (2014) some children joins in with the bullies to avoid falling victims of the harassments. As a result, they are exposed to the impacts of bullying to the bully, even though they never intended to become tyrants.
Possible Solutions to Bullying
From the above discussion, it is apparent that bullying is a detrimental behavior in children. It impacts not just the victim but also the perpetrator and those witnessing the vice. Therefore, there is a need for practical solutions and preventive measures to be established so as to protect the children from the physical and psychological impacts of bullying. This section discusses some of the effective ways of curbing bullying in children and teenagers as proposed by various scholars.
Dealing with bullying is a collective role between the parents and teachers. Often, incidences of bullying occur in schools; however, the parent can also play a big role in identifying and addressing bullying whether their child are victims or perpetrators. The first effective solution to bullying is raising awareness. As Kowalski et al. explain, adults should be well informed about bullying and how it happens so as to be able to spot possible bullying behaviors (2014). For instance, teachers should be able to identify a possibly bullied child despite the fact that bullying will rarely occur in their presence. Further, parents should counsel their children about bullying and how to deal with it. Often, most of the bullying victims view it as an ordinary life challenge and thus, do not report it and ends up suffering in silence. However, well-informed children consider bullying as a vice and can stand firm against it. Therefore, adults should educate their children about bullying and encourage them to report when bullied or witness any bullying behavior.
Additionally, schools should establish rules and regulations about bullying behaviors. First, schools should have a clear definition of bullying and the possible punitive measures attracted by a bullying behavior. Children should be made aware that engaging in whatever form of bullying is unacceptable and punishable. With a clear definition of what constitutes bullying, the school community can address the behavior when it occurs. Similarly, parents should teach their children that bullying is unlawful, both morally and legally. Often, parents tend to be more concerned when their children are on the receiving end (Kowalski et al., 2014). However, bullying affects both the tormenter and the target. Therefore, should discourage their children against bullying others, stating categorically what amounts to bullying as opposed to usual teasing.
Another effective way of dealing with bullying is addressing the vice in a professional manner. First, teachers and parents should always watch out for warning signs that a child may be experiencing bullying. There are specific telltale signs of a bullied child. These signs include loss of personal items, low confidence, and physical bruises and so on. Often, bullying actions occurs repeatedly, making it easier for adults to notice distinct trends in children. Parents and teachers should follow up on any warning signs so as to identify the bullies and assist their victims. Bullying victims requires a particular mode of intervention, depending on the nature of harassment experienced and its specific impacts. For instance, physically abused children may require urgent medical attention while emotionally affected victims require professional psychological counseling. Similarly, the bully may also require mental counseling as opposed to the punitive measures often applied. Therefore, adults should address every bullying incident uniquely and professionally.
It is evident that bullying is a serious issue among the children in the United States and all over the world. Bullying may result in severe impacts to all the children involved, whether the victim, the bully or the observer. It is, therefore, paramount for schools and parents to collaborate in establishing effective measures to the vice. Parents and teachers should increase awareness about bullying, how it occurs and its impacts. Bullying behaviors should always be condemned, urging the victims to report their experience to the authority. However, every bullying incidence is unique and should be addressed in an exceptional and professional manner.
Kowalski, R. M., Giumetti, G. W., Schroeder, A. N., &Lattanner, M. R. (2014).Bullying in the digital age: A critical review and meta-analysis of cyberbullying research among youth. Psychological bulletin, 140(4), 1073.Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/psycarticles/2014-04307-001
This article reviews some of the present research on cyberbullying. By comparing and contrasting the views of various researchers, Kowalsk et al. establishes significant facts about digital bullying, which is a modern form of harassment among the US children. This article is used as a primary source of information about cyber bullying and the impacts of bullying in general.
Koo, H. (2007). A Time Line of the Evolution of School Bullying in Differing Social Context. Asia Pacific Education Review, Vol. 8, No. 1, 107-116. Retrieved from https://webspace.utexas.edu/lab3346/School%20Bullying/Koo2007/Koreabullyinghistory2007.pdf
This article expounds the general understanding of bullying by reviewing the evolution of people understands of the issue. Notably, Koo reviews the people’s understanding of bullying in the 18th to early 20th century. This article is used as a primary resource in the understanding of the historical background of bullying.
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) | U.S … (2015).Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/
The National Center for Education Statistics is among the bodies that are concerned about the well-being of children. It collaborates with other institutions such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to track the trends in issues concerning the children such as bullying in schools. In the present research, the NCES website was comprehensively used to provide statistics about children and adolescent bullying in the United States.
Turner, M. G., Exum, M. L., Brame, R., & Holt, T. J. (2013). Bullying victimization and adolescent mental health: General and typological effects across sex. Journal of Criminal Justice, 41(1), 53-59.Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047235212001468
This article presents a comprehensive study on the impacts of bullying on the mental health status of the victim. In this study, Turner and others investigate whether the type of the harassment and the gender victim matters in the mental health outcome experienced. They found that, different types of bullying resulted in distinct impacts on mental health.