What is Youth Violence/Bullying?
Bullying is any act of control over another person including not only physical abuse but threats, verbal abuse, social abuse, harassing or stalking. Bullying, a term often thought to be exclusive to youth, also involves adults and crosses all racial, religious, gender, social and economic backgrounds. This type of violence typically involves three parties; the bully, the bullied and the bystander(s).
Types of Bullying
Includes behaviours such as: hitting, kicking, shoving, spitting, beating up, stealing, or damaging property.
Includes behaviours such as: name-calling, mocking, hurtful teasing, humiliating or threatening someone, racist comments, or sexual harassment.
Includes behaviours such as: rolling your eyes or turning away from someone, excluding others from the group, gossiping or spreading rumours, setting others up to look foolish, and damaging friendships.
Electronic or Cyberbullying
Includes the use of email, cell phones, text messages, and internet sites to threaten, harass, embarrass, socially exclude, or damage reputations and friendships.
Includes behaviours such as: treating people badly because of their racial or ethic background, saying bad things about a cultural background, calling someone racist names, or telling racist jokes.
Treating people badly because of their religious background or beliefs, saying bad things about a religious background or belief, calling someone names or telling jokes based on his or her religious beliefs.
Includes behaviours such as: leaving someone out or treating them badly because they are a boy or a girl, making someone feel uncomfortable because of their sex, making sexist comments or jokes touching, pinching or grabbing someone in a sexual way, making crude comments about someone’s sexual behaviour, spreading a sexual rumour about someone, or calling someone gay, a fag, a lesbian, or other names like that.
Includes behaviours such as: leaving someone out or treating them badly because of a disability, making someone feel uncomfortable because of a disability, or making comments or jokes to hurt someone with a disability.
How Widespread is Bullying?
A 1997 survey of Canadians revealed that 6% of children admitted bullying others “more than once or twice” over a six-week span and 15% of children reported that they had been victimized at the same rate. Researchers’ observations of children on playgrounds and in classrooms confirm that bullying occurs frequently: once every 7 minutes on the playground and once every 25 minutes in class.
Signs of Bullying
Children and youth who are being victimized often show a change in behaviour and/or emotions:
- Not wanting to go to school or participate in extra-curricular activities
- Anxious, fearful, over-reactive
- Exhibits low self-esteem and makes negative comments about him/herself
- Headaches and stomach aches
- Lower interest and performance in school
- Loses things, needs money, reports being hungry after school
- Injuries, bruising, damaged clothing, broken things
- Unhappy, irritable, little interest in activities
- Trouble sleeping, nightmares, bedwetting
- Expresses threats to hurt himself/herself or others
Consequences of Bullying
- Low self esteem
- Inability to deal with problems
Why Do People Bully?
- To feel a sense of power over others
- To make them feel tough
- To make them feel in charge
- To feel stronger and better than anyone else
- To defend their actions by saying the victim caused it
Bullying is deliberate and is meant to harm. Bullying is not a normal part of growing up. It is serious and has severe consequences!
The Role of Bystanders
When bystanders laugh or participate and fail to intervene they actually encourage and reward the bully’s behaviour. When bystanders ignore what’s going on or act as an audience, the abuser gets away with it.
What Can We Do to Reduce Bullying?
Motivation and support from the school staff are essential. All school staff should be included in educational sessions. Staff, together with parent and student representatives, should be responsible for updating the code of behaviour and its consequences. Teachers’ attitudes are reflected in their behaviour. When adults recognize the problem of bullying and their central role in reducing it, they supervise actively and intervene to stop bullying.
Parent meetings and newsletters should inform parents about the problems of bullying. Parents should talk to their children about bullying and be aware of signs of potential victimization. Communication between parents and the school is essential, as parents are often the first to know that their children are being victimized.
Peers play a critical role in bullying. Interventions must aim to change attitudes, behaviours and norms around bullying for all children in a school. Under teachers’ guidance, students can recognize the problem of bullying and their potential contributions. With teachers’ support, they can develop strategies for intervening themselves, or seeking adult assistance to stop bullying. Promoting attitudes in the peer group which support empathy for the victim and condemn aggression will reduce bullying.
Bullies and Victims
Children involved as bullies or victims require individual attention. Talks with bullies should emphasize that bullying is not acceptable and point out the consequences established in the code of behaviour. If a group of children is involved in bullying, the bully and bystanders are made to understand their role and responsibility. Talks with victims encourage them to speak up and confirm the school’s intention to ensure that they are protected from further harassment. Talks with parents inform them of their children’s difficulties and enlist their cooperation in disciplining bullying behaviour and/or monitoring for further occurrences of bullying or victimization.