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Another all-too-common occurrence in today’s high school environment is bullying – defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) anti-bullying website, Stopbullying.gov, as “intentionally aggressive, usually repeated verbal, social, or physical behavior aimed at a specific person or group of people.” Although statistics indicate an increase in cyberbullying – harassing individuals through social media or other technology – the majority of bullying still takes place at school. According to DHHS, one in three U.S. students reports being bullied at school.
Bullying behaviors can be:
- physical – chasing, hitting, damaging or stealing property
- verbal – taunting, name-calling, threatening
- social – spreading rumors, secrets or gossip, excluding or ostracizing from a group
- or even virtual, as electronic communication and social media create more opportunities for anonymous victimization
Know the Warning Signs of Bullying
The website stopybullying.gov offers the following warning signs of bullying:
Signs that a student is being bullied
Not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs, but the following changes in a student’s behavior or demeanor may point to a bullying problem:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
Signs that a student is bullying others
Kids may be bullying others if they:
- Get into physical or verbal fights
- Have friends who bully others
- Are increasingly aggressive
- Are sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
- Blame others for their problems
- Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
- Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
Why don't kids ask for help?
Statistics from the 2012 Indicators of School Crime and Safety study show that an adult was notified in less than half (40%) of bullying incidents. Kids don’t tell adults for many reasons:
- Bullying can make a child feel helpless. Kids may want to handle it on their own to feel in control again. They may fear being seen as weak or a tattletale.
- Kids may fear backlash from the kid who bullied them.
- Bullying can be a humiliating experience. Kids may not want adults to know what is being said about them, whether true or false. They may also fear that adults will judge them or punish them for being weak.
- Kids who are bullied may already feel socially isolated. They may feel like no one cares or could understand.
- Kids may fear being rejected by their peers. Friends can help protect kids from bullying, and kids can fear losing this support.
Both the bully and the victim need help.
- People choose bullying behaviors to counteract feelings of low self-esteem or lack of control, or perhaps in response to abuse or trauma they may be experiencing.
- In addition to being subjected to emotional and physical harm, the bullied individual may feel guilt and shame about being the object of abuse, and may fear that exposing it will make the situation worse, not better.