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Bullies don’t go away when elementary school ends; bullying actually peaks in junior high school and continues through high school and even into the workplace. It can lead to serious problems and dangerous situations for both the victim and the bully.
Bullying is repeated and unnecessary aggressive behavior, or quite simply, unprovoked meanness. It’s a form of intimidation, behavior designed to threaten or frighten or to get someone to do something they wouldn’t normally do. Bullies have learned that bullying works. They do it to feel powerful and in control. There are things you can do to deal with the situation without making things worse.
- Bullies keep bullying as long as it works—as long as it makes them feel more powerful.
- Many children and teens are bullies or victims of bullies, but the largest number of children and teens are bystanders—witnesses to bullying.
- Eight percent of urban junior and senior high students miss one day of school each month because of fear.
- Bullying takes lots of forms: it can be physical or verbal, mild to severe.
- One in four children who bullies will have a criminal record before the age of 30.
- Girls can be bullies, too, although bullying by girls is more likely to show up as spreading rumors, leaving people out of social events, teasing about clothes or boyfriends, or threatening to withdraw friendship. However, this doesn’t mean that girls don’t use physical intimidation to bully.
- Although much bullying happens where adults can’t see or hear it, it also happens when adults are present. Often adults don’t do anything to stop the bullying.
Anyone can be the target of bullying. However, a typical victim is likely to be shy, sensitive, and perhaps anxious or insecure. Some teens are picked on for physical reasons, such as being overweight or small, wearing different or “weird” clothing, having a physical disability, or belonging to a different race or religious faith
Intimidators. Some bullies are outgoing, aggressive, active, and expressive. They get their way by brute force or openly harassing someone. They may carry a weapon. This type of bully rejects rules and regulations and needs to rebel to achieve a feeling of being better than everyone else.
Smooth Talkers. Other bullies are more reserved and tricky and may not want to be recognized as harassers or tormentors. They try to control by talking, saying the right thing at the right time, and lying. This type of bully gets his or her power secretively through manipulation and deception.
As different as these two types may seem, all bullies have these characteristics in common:
- concern with their own pleasure
- desire for power over others
- willingness to use and abuse other people to get what they want
- feeling of pain inside, perhaps because of their own shortcomings
- inability to see things from someone else’s perspective.
If You Are the Victim
No one solution works well in every situation, but there are a variety of strategies you can try.
- Avoid or ignore the bully.
- Hang out with friends. There is safety in numbers.
- Say “no” to a bully’s demands from the start. If the bully threatens you with a weapon, give in to the demands and immediately tell an adult.
- Tell the bully assertively to stop threatening you (for example, “I don’t like what you’re doing. Stop it!” or “Get a life—leave me alone.”)
- Do not physically fight back: experience shows that this actually increases the likelihood of continued victimization.
- Seek immediate help from an adult.
- Report bullying to school personnel.
- If your safety is at stake, walk away or run if you need to.
Stop the Bullying
It’s everyone’s responsibility to stop bullying. And don’t be afraid to get help when necessary. It takes courage, but you will be preventing the intimidation from continuing and possibly escalating. You can report the problem to authorities anonymously.
- Refuse to participate in taunting and teasing.
- Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
- Tell adults if you witness cruelty or hear about violence that might occur.
- Walk away from fights.
- Speak out against the bully.
- Stand tall and walk with confidence and in a way that commands respect.
- Hang out with friends who don’t get involved in bullying.
- Stand up for others who are being intimidated.
- Include the person who is being bullied in your activities.
- Show compassion for the victim. Take Action
- Work with the school administration and get students together to develop or revise your school’s code of conduct.
- Start a bully education program for the local elementary school. Consider a puppet show or skit that teaches kids about bullying.
- Organize a teen panel or discussion group to talk about the issues of bullying and intimidation at your school.