The school setting, public or private, is where most bullying takes place. Thirty-seven percent of teens report being bullied while at school. Four of ten middle schools admit bullying is an issue on their campus. In-person bullying includes things such as
- being made fun of,
- having rumors or gossip spread about you,
- being physically assaulted in some way,
- being threatened,
- being purposefully excluded,
- being coerced into doing something you didn’t want to do,
- having your personal property/belongings damaged or destroyed.
If the bullying took place only on the school grounds, there’d be a place your kids could get away from it all. But with online bullying, children can be bullied 24/7 through social media and texting. One in three teens says they’ve experienced cyberthreats. Once again, girls are more prone to be cyberbullied than boys.
The most common types of cyberbullying are
- sending mean messages by email or text, intended to hurt the recipient,
- spreading rumors through social media or web pages about a person,
- pretending to be someone else online to hurt the recipient,
- stealing a person’s account information to send damaging messages to others, pretending to be them,
- sexting and/or sending sexually suggestive pictures or messages about another person,
- sending embarrassing/unflattering pictures of another person by phone or internet.
Online bullies, unfortunately, can sometimes create devastating issues anonymously and often with little fear of being discovered or punished. Their harassing comments may even include recommendations that the recipient harm or kill themselves. Kids who are the targets of bullying have an increased likelihood of developing anxiety, social anxiety, depression, psychotic experiences, substance abuse, headaches, stomachaches, tiredness, dizziness, sleeping issues, and back pain. Add all this together and you can see why bullied teens are more likely to harm themselves.
Research also confirms that permissive parenting—where children get to do pretty much whatever they want—can develop a bully just as much as harsh, strict parenting. Again, the most effective parenting style is one that balances having relationship (nurture) with having boundaries and limits (structure). There’s a temptation for us as parents to want to be the cool parent, to be liked rather than to be the parent, but in the process we can create a teen who feels too powerful for her own good. We need to be sure our kids learn how to respond respectfully to authority, accept the word no, and understand how to navigate social give-and-take.
It may not surprise you that many bullies are simply imitating their parents, with a few minor variations. As a parent, are you harsh toward your kids? Have you ever tried to press (insert the word bully) the staff at your children’s school to get what you want for your child? Sometimes, kids are simply mirroring what’s going on at home. They have been victims of bullying and now want to have power somewhere, just as Andrew did. Once they find someone who is weaker, they strike. Interestingly, while the bullied child becomes increasingly depressed, the bullying child also has high levels of depression from various factors such as genetics, family environment, and life experiences. This Pew Research Center report shows that a majority of teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying.