Bullying is nothing new. Our hyper connected world has, however, ensured greater awareness of the nature and consequences of bullying and much needed discussion has followed. In order to be most effective in our dealing with bullying behaviour, both in preventing it and dealing with it when it happens, we need to make sure we can cut through some of the noise. We need to sort the facts from the myths.
There are many behaviours that we often lump under the banner of bullying. But in essence, bullying involves the following 3 elements
- the use of power over another
- aggressive in nature
- frequent and ongoing
Let’s look at some of the myths. Some of the beliefs that need to be ditched in order to effectively tackle bullying.
Myth: If bullying happens outside school hours, including cyberbullying, then it is not the schools responsibility to deal with it.
Fact: Dealing with bullying and cyberbullying is everyones responsibility, and the governments, schools, workplaces, families, parents, individuals and bystanders have a role to play in helping prevent bullying. Schools do have a duty of care to the wellbeing of their students and hence they cannot ignore bullying.
Myth: Ignore bullies and it will eventually go away
Fact: Bullying does not have to be ignored or endured or put up with. Ignoring bullies does not necessarily make it go away. Whilst we don’t want to engage in back and forth communication or respond to threats of violence, we know that ignoring the behaviour can have the effect of the bully ‘upping the ante’ and escalating the threats.
Myth: Stand up for yourself and fight back
Fact: Whilst standing up to a bully may certainly make the behaviour go away, for many people, having the courage to stand up to bullies may not be an option. They need support and they need help.
Myth: Bullying happens everywhere
Fact: Some organisations, schools and workplaces are much better at dealing with bullying. Whilst eradicating bullying completely may seem difficult, there are certainly organisations that deal with it swiftly and prevent it from escalating. Likewise, other organisations, schools and workplaces simply deny it, rationalise it, justify and ignore it.
Myth: Bullying is a right of passage
Fact: Bullying is not a milestone we need to conquer to go out in to the world. Whilst many do survive it and go on to achieve great things, many many more do not, and suffer enormous consequences as a result. These effects are often endured into their adult years and have a negative impact on many aspects of their wellbeing.
Myth: Bullies are strong
Fact: Those that bully may be physically strong and use that power to intimidate, however those that bully are more often than not, struggling psychologically, emotionally and socially.
Myth: playing violent video games will make you a bully
Fact: Violent video games may have the negative effect of desensitising to violence and may affect an individuals behaviour, however video games are not a cause of bullying. Many can play games without acting out on aggression or violence experienced in game playing.
Myth: Telling someone about the bullying will only make it worse
Fact: Bullying can rarely be resolved without the help of others, be that bystanders, teachers, parents, schools or organisations. It is important we let our kids know that sharing the experience of bullying is the most important step in making it stop.
Myth: Friends don’t bully
Fact: Whilst we’d like to think that friends don’t bully, many kids who have been bullied often refer to the person as one of their friends, either as a class member or ‘friend’ or ‘follower’ on social media.
Things we know about bullying:
- Approximately 1 in 4 students experience bullying on a frequent basis
- The vast majority of students who bully online also bully offline
- The vast majority of students who are bullied online are also bullied offline
- Kids who are bullied are more likely to show symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Those who bully use power to hurt people. Power may come from being bigger and stronger or more popular, smarter etc
- People bully for a variety of reasons: inadequacy, low self esteem, jealousy, an inability to deal with anger, to appear tough or cool or popular, to join in with others, due to a lack of attention at home or by peers, replicating a power imbalance that happens in the home or they have experienced bullying themselves.
Things we don’t really know about bullying
- Research is still inconclusive about whether traditional or cyberbullying is more prevalent or more dangerous. I suspect it matters little to someone who is enduring either or both bullying right now.
- Boys or girls experience more or less. Different forms, different means, different manner, at different times. I suspect it matters little to the boy or girl who is enduring bullying right now.
Fact: Bullying is not ok