Did you ever experience bullying when you were a kid? Did you wish the teacher was present during breaks or recess time to help you? Try to look at kids' behavior during their recess. You may find something that is amiss. However, before you delve into the observable signs, you should at least know what bullying is. By learning more about it, you may be more able to prevent or intervene against it.
Bullying is a phenomenon that you or someone you know has more than likely experienced. It is something that we are all aware of. It can be observed in the form of threats, inflicting physical harm, verbally abusing an individual, and/or spreading gossip about the person. It can also be in the form of jokes meant to ridicule an individual. Bullying happens everywhere: School, the office, on the street, while traveling, and yes, even at home. You should not forget that there is also another type of bullying called cyber bullying.
The American Psychological Association defines bullying as "a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort." Note that the organization also said that the victim has done nothing to provoke such treatment and is unable to defend himself.
Threats can be made in many different ways. It could be as blatant as saying it right to your face or through subliminal messages like pinching you. Some children, especially those who enjoy bullying, will issue threats to smaller children when no adult is around. This is why recess is a vulnerable time for kids. Some may skip lunch just to avoid the bully. Worse, their lunch may have been grabbed from them by the bullies themselves.
Some kids may try to defend themselves, or will try to say no to the bullies. If the bully is physically aggressive, he may assert himself and inflict harm on a kid. For instance, during recess time, a bully may approach another kid and take his lunchbox. If the kid being bullied tries to defend himself or say no, the bully may push him. If the kid being bullied asserts himself and tells the teacher or an adult, the bully may wait for him outside school and give him a lesson or two on the importance of being submissive to the bully's will.
Recess time is the time teenagers usually gather in groups. It is also during this time that they catch up on daily life activities and events. If a bully feels that someone is getting more popular than him or her, he or she may resort to rumor-mongering to degrade the other kid's reputation. Some may go to the extent of printing awkward pictures and distributing them to classmates anonymously.
There are also teenagers that bully in a subtle way. They include someone in a group they see as a weakling. Then they make fun of him, and ask him to do ridiculous things just to be included in the group. This usually happens to teenagers. According to Erik Erikson, the psychosexual task of an individual during this time is the need to belong. They need to overcome their inferiority and at the same time achieve successful social relationships; thus the need to belong and be recognized is high. During lunch breaks, other teens may gather around and grab this opportunity to give the weakling some tasks to do before the break is over as well. It may range from pouring a water on someone or grabbing someone's lunch to pulling a practical joke on the teacher. He may get caught and then the bullies will deny any involvement, leaving the poor fellow to suffer ridicule and shame alone.
Being excluded from a group is also a form of bullying. This can be observed during recess or lunchtime, when children are supposed to be in groups, eating with their school friends. You will likely notice one or two kids who dine alone, maybe glancing from time to time at a group he or she might like to be with. However, because of bullying, some children have no choice but to bear the treatment until the semester ends.
Kids and teenagers who experience bullying tend to perform low academically. In order to avoid being talked about or made fun of, these individuals will avoid drawing attention to themselves, including participation in class. If the teacher asks a question, even if the bullied child may know the answer, he or she will prefer not to talk because for fear of being ridiculed in front of the class by the bullies. If not in the class, perhaps after class he or she fears bullying. A study entitled "Peer exclusion and victimization  showed that peer rejection played an important role in a child's academic performance.
Children and teenagers who have experienced bullying tend to be suspicious of others' intentions. They may withdraw from genuine friendships and social interactions in school and beyond. This is true with individuals who have frequently gone through trusting schoolmates, only to end up being the victims of bad practical jokes. As such, the individual's psychosocial task of intimacy won't be attained. This will further be observed as the teenager reaches an age where he or she needs to choose a partner in life.
Fearing social interaction as a consequence of being bullied, children will feel isolated and lonely. As such, without the family knowing it, a kid may turn to substance or alcohol abuse. This may be a consequence of the child turning to social deviants as friends, where they feel acceptance from a group. To conform, a child may try prohibited drugs or alcohol. Then, when they find this type of conformity did not bring them shame, it may continue until someone concerned intervenes.
Bullying is something that school superintendents, teachers and other school authorities should watch out for. Most of the time, bullying is identified in school, especially during recess time, when kids are left on their own. It is important that someone in the school be trained to identify red flags on bullying during break time. Not all children will speak up and not all parents are supportive. It is vital to identify bullying and kids being bullied earlier in order for interventions to be effective and lasting.
↑Journal of Educational Psychology", 98(1);Buhs, E., Ladd, G., & Herald, S. (2006)
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