Posted on: December 27, 2021 Time to read: 2 minutes
Bullying is a widespread problem—in the classroom, office, and beyond. And in recent years, due to widespread access and use of the internet, smartphones, and apps, bullying has taken on a new form: cyberbullying. It’s an issue that far too many individuals are familiar with: 1 in 5 high school students report being bullied at school and 1 in 6 report being cyberbullied, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At 3rd Millennium Classrooms, bullying is one of our core topics and something we are deeply passionate about. We work with middle schools, high schools, colleges, universities, and courts to educate individuals about the harmful effects of bullying. Ultimately, it’s our goal to make a lifelong impact on behavior and enforce positive habits and goals.
All of our bullying-related courses, such as Respect & Resolve and Conflict-Wise, include evidence-based information and resources. This guide on bullying provides an overview of the types of information included, our approach to the topic, and resources to gain a better understanding of the complexity of bullying.
What Is Bullying?
In order to stop and prevent bullying, one must understand what it is. By definition, bullying:
Is“unwanted, aggressive behavior towards someone,” according to StopBullying.gov, a federal resource from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Involves a pattern of behavior that is repeated over time. In other words, a one-time aggressive act is not bullying. But repeated behavior that is aggressive and unwanted is bullying.
Involves an imbalance of power or strength. This includes physical strength or power or the power that comes from a position of authority or perceived “position” in society.
Bullying can happen in many forms: verbal, physical, social, or cyber. Some examples of bullying include name-calling, hitting or punching, spreading rumors, and sending hurtful comments on social media. Regardless of the way it presents, it has the potential to have a significant impact on a person’s mental health, physical health, and overall well-being.
Prevalence of Bullying
In short, bullying is nearly everywhere and is specifically a problem among youth. From elementary to high schools and public to private schools, bullying happens in many different environments in the U.S. and globally. It affects individuals of all genders, races, and ethnicities. In a recent survey among those who were bullied, they indicated they were of the following races:
27% American Indian/Alaska Native
Given the widespread impact and increased severity and prevalence of bullying over the years, it’s vital to address bullying in a timely manner. Online courses provide an accessible, affordable, and effective option for individuals from various backgrounds to make strides towards ending bullying.
Bullying vs. Cyberbullying
Though bullying and cyberbullying have many of the same characteristics, there’s a key difference: cyberbullying happens online or through digital methods such as email, text, or direct message (DM) while traditional bullying happens in person. The word “cyberbullying” is generally used to describe harassing behavior of children and teenagers. For adults, it is generally considered cyberstalking. With the rise of smartphones, laptops, and a long list of social media platforms, cyberbullying has taken the spotlight in recent years.
An incident may be seen or heard over and over again.
It is easier for groups to bully or for others to join in once it has started.
A bullied student may have no idea who is initiating the behavior
Cyberbullying can happen anywhere and at any time.
Cyberbullying crosses boundaries; it reaches into the “safety” of a person’s own home.
Cyberbullying seems to be more anonymous but leaves a record, which can later be used as evidence.
Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying is often anonymous and can more easily go unnoticed by potential bystanders. Unfortunately in many cases, those who experience in-person bullying also experience traditional bullying. Cyberbullying occurs among individuals of all ages, but is most common among middle school students, closely followed by high school students, according to the CDC. Research suggests the cyberbullying trend is continuing to grow, which is why schools and organizations must continually look for opportunities to prevent it from happening as well as help those who are being bullied.
Types of Cyberbullies
Flaming: Flaming refers to using inflammatory language about someone or broadcasting offensive messages about them in the hopes of eliciting a reaction.
Outing: Outing involves sharing personal or embarrassing information about someone on the Internet. This type of cyberbullying usually takes place on a larger scale rather than one-to-one or in a smaller group.
Trolling: Trolling refers to posting content or comments with the goal of getting people to have embarrassing online reactions. In other words, a troll will say something derogatory or offensive about a person or group, with the sole intention of getting people riled up. This type of cyberbully enjoys creating chaos and then sitting back and watching what happens.
Name Calling: Name-calling involves using offensive language to refer to other people. Reports show that 42% of teens said they had been called offensive names through their mobile phones or on the Internet.
Spreading False Rumors: Cyberbullies who spread false rumors make up stories about individuals and then spread these false truths online. In the same report, 32% of teens said that someone had spread false rumors about them on the Internet.2
Sending Explicit Images or Messages: Cyberbullies may also send explicit images or messages without the consent of the victim.
Cyber Stalking/Harassing/Physical Threats: Some cyberbullies will repeatedly target the same people through cyberstalking, cyber harassing, or physical threats. In that same report, 16% of teens reported having been the victim of physical threats on the Internet.
And those who are bullies have a common connection, too. Many times they begin their behavior at a young age and it gets carried into adulthood—sometimes in the form of domestic violence. This is especially true for individuals who get away with bullying earlier in life and never receive education about the consequences of their actions. This is another reason why it’s important to address bullying at an early age.
Why Do Bullies Bully?
Bullying is associated with, for example, a negative school climate, negative self-esteem, self-concept, and other related cognitions, trouble resolving conflicts, low empathy, and externalizing behaviors. Family level risk factors include heredity, parental mental health problems, domestic violence, abuse/neglect, and maladaptive parenting, and a negative family environment. Other reasons for bullying are that it may be one way in which young adolescents manage peer and dominance relationships as they make the transition into new social groups, failure in previous scholastic years, witnessing family members using weapons, male gender, and mothers’ education (university or higher) remained the significant predictors for bullying.
Bullies have been reported to describe experiencing fear and a lack of support, of wanting to stop but being unable to do so for fear of repercussions such as becoming bullied themselves or losing reputation and status.
Impact of Bullying on Teens
Those who experience either traditional bullying or cyberbullying may experience negative consequences such as self-harm, humiliation, isolation, depression, increased chance of physical illness, low self-esteem, a drop in their grades, and overall academic performance. Some severe cases can even result in suicide or death. Those who are bullies may also experience negative consequences—namely, an increased risk for substance misuse, academic problems, and mental health conditions, among other things, according to the CDC.
Bullying Prevention and Intervention
Anyone has the potential to play a role in bullying prevention and intervention. In fact, bystanders are among the key people who can help put an end to harmful situations. Bystander interventions help de-escalate situations through distractions, delegations, and directness.
Through various 3rd Millennium Classrooms courses, bystanders learn how to:
Shift their ideas and expectations on norms and risks
Determine their preferred intervention style
Develop evidence-based action steps
Learn skills for resolving conflicts and resisting peer pressure and coercion
Though it’s much more difficult than being a bystander, the person being bullied can intervene too. Some anti-bullying strategies include ignoring the bully, telling the bully to stop, making jokes or comebacks and laughing it off, knowing how to exit, sticking with friends, standing with others, telling someone, reporting the incident, and receiving professional counseling.
What Parents Can Do About Bullying
No parent wants their child to be bullied, but unfortunately many will have to experience it. To be best prepared, parents can take critical steps to help their children should they ever be in a situation involving bullying. First, it’s important to recognize common signs that your child may be being bullied, including:
Becoming shy or anxious
Unexplained cuts or bruises
Not doing well in school
Skipping class or not wanting to go to school
The above list isn’t exhaustive but provides a general list of behaviors to pay close attention to. In many cases, a child won’t tell their parents about what they’re experiencing, but if they do, it’s important to listen attentively. Then, take action by notifying a teacher, counselor, or administration who can take action to prevent further problems. Finally, help your child repair their confidence and self-esteem. Encourage them to do the things they enjoy with those they enjoy spending time with. Also, make sure they know you believe in them and make an extra effort to help them feel good about themselves.