What is bullying?
Bullying is described as a behavior that: is intended to cause distress or harm, involves an imbalance of power or strength between the aggressor and the target, and generally occurs repeatedly over time. There is a line that is crossed when something goes from teasing to bullying and it’s important to recognize when and if that change occurs. Bullying is a learned behavior and not something that naturally occurs in teens. It is preventable and fixable if those in the proper sphere of a teen’s life remain vigilant and open to honest communication and change.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where bullying is still prevalent. With the ever-changing technologies, new forms of bullying have emerged among the already existing and still devastating traditional forms. Bullying is a sad reality for many teens in today’s society, but there are signs to look out for and ways to prevent future issues from arising. There are those that do not truly understand the wide scope of bullying or its potentially serious effects it can have on teens.
Types of Bullying
There are many different types of bullying, not all are physical or immediately obvious.
- Verbal bullying involves continued targeted teasing with the intent to do harm.
- Physical bullying is the most obvious and involves violent behavior toward an individual.
- Emotional bullying is more subtle and occurs when a bully aims to make an individual feel unsafe, isolated, or insecure.
- With the rise of social media, cyberbullying is another form of bullying that is indicative of abuse through social media platforms, email, text, etc.
- A form of bullying not often known or labeled as bullying is sexual bullying which is characteristically very different from flirting with the intent to harm or exploit the other party. It Is one-sided, continues after the target objects, and is based on an imbalance of power.
All forms of bullying, whether they are obvious or not, can have serious lasting effects on those who are being bullied.
Why do teens bully each other?
It’s hard to understand why any human being would enjoy hurting another human being, but there are psychological and physical reasons why a teen becomes a bully in the first place. The experiences that people had as children, their psychological well-being, and their personal relationships all influence whether or not someone will engage in bullying. Some teens might bully because they see themselves as being better than others, or they might have been raised to think badly of those who are different than them. Teens might bully out of jealousy or because they have personalities that make them quick to anger. One of the physical reasons for bullying is that in teens, brain development is still occurring, making them more quick to rely on impulses rather than thinking before acting. Whatever the reasons a teen becomes a bully, there is never an excuse. It’s important that parents and teachers and those that interact with teens, are hyper aware of the signs. If it’s acknowledged, then that becomes one step closer to stopping the bullying before it gets out of control or causes lasting damage.
What do you do if your teen is being bullied?
It’s always been a parent’s main priority to look out for the well-being of their children. When a child is being bullied, the parents need to learn how to recognize the signs and do all they can to help change the situations.
Teens are often hesitant to admit to adults when they are being bullied, making it difficult for adults to recognize when something harmful is occurring. Being cognizant of the warning signs can be a life-saving tool when dealing with potential bullying. Some of these signs to watch out for include: returning from school with unexplained injuries or damaged or lost possessions, complaining of feeling unwell before school or school activities, regularly skipping the same class, behaving in a way that is withdrawn or depressed, or taking a weapon to school.
These physical signs are just the visible manifestations of the harmful effects of bullying, but it can go much deeper. Bullying is a serious health risk and shouldn’t be treated as a “normal” part of growing up. Such physical and mental harm can result in and contribute to depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and can even result in suicide. Recognizing the warning signs early is the best defense at potential lasting effects.
There are ways to aid in the prevention of bullying once it has been addressed as a problem. The best defense is creating a safe space for teens dealing with bullying to be able to reach out to trusted adults, whether that be teachers, parents, counselors, or other meaningful influences in a teen’s life. Counseling can be a good place to turn to aid teens who have been bullied. Those who have been bullied need to understand that whatever is happening to them isn’t their fault and that they, above anything else, do not deserve that sort of harmful attention given to them.
What do you do if your teen is a bully?
As a parent, thinking the world of your kid kind of comes with the territory; no one wants to think that their child is capable of being a bully, but oftentimes that is the case. Nearly 30% of young people admit to bullying at some point or another, making it necessary for parents to be aware of the possibility that their child could be the antagonizer. It’s not always the obvious “angry loner” trope that embodies bullying; it can be and often is, someone in a position of popularity with high self-esteem.
There are three different types of bullies to be aware of.
- Aggressive Bullies are confident, physically strong, hot tempered, and fearless. These bullies lack empathy and prey on those who they deem “less” than they are.
- Passive bullies are typically less popular and more insecure, making them act out of jealousy.
- Bully-targets are bullies that also get bullied themselves in a sort of “there is always a bigger fish” hierarchy. They bully those that are weaker than them but get bullied by those that are stronger. These bullies are often results of abuse from those in authority.
Knowing these types of bullies can help recognize the warning signs for a teen as a potential bully.
As with teens being bullied, parents need to watch out for the signs that their teen could be a bully themselves. Most bullies have similar characteristics and mannerisms that are fairly easy to spot. A lack of impulse control can be an indicator along with an acceptance and penchant for violence. Those who bully, ultimately lack empathy and disregard those feelings and personality differences of others.
Teaching empathy can be a hard thing for teens that bully to learn, but encouraging, and setting the example can be a huge help in correcting these behaviors. It’s important that the teen has clear boundaries while parents avoid harsh punishments. Letting the teen know that bullying isn’t tolerated, but doing it in a loving way, is the best attitude a parent can have. Parents should consider counseling to help address the reasons behind the bullying and to work to correct the teen’s behavior.