Bullying Statistics and Interventions
Recent bullying statistics suggest that bullying is still an immense problem among children and teens (Bullying 1). In addition, with the widespread usage of social networking, there is an entirely new forum for bullying to occur that does not necessitate any actual physical contact with the individual thereby making it easier for youth to bully. It is estimated that 2.7 million students are bullied each year and about 2.1 students taking on the roll of a bully (1). This translates into approximated one in seven students reporting that they have been victims of bullying (1). As many as 61% of students believe that bullying is a direct causation of school related violence (1). With suicide being the leading cause of death among children under the age of 14, no longer can bullying simply be dismissed as a benign part of growing up (1). Studies and statistics on bullying have demonstrated that the mental and physical well being of students is being directly threatened by both traditional bullying and cyber bullying. Bullying, however, is an effect. It can cause physical and emotional harm to victims, but stopping bullying at its root causation is the key to successful programs. With bullying getting national attentions and stakeholders embracing programs to stop bullying, it is critical to access the causes of bullying on both the level of the victim and the aggressor to prevent the practice. Through causation based early interventions, bullying programs will be more efficacious than if they did not embrace such paradigms.
There is a misnomer that bullying only is an issue between the aggressor and the victim. In reality, the audience for bullying is equally important in the relationship. Over half (56%) of students have witnesses a bulling crime taking place while at school (Bullying 1). Even more have admitted being a witness to cyber bullying (1). Some 71% of students report that bullying is an ongoing problem and they believe parents, teachers and schools are not adequately stopping the practice (1). Approximately 1 out of 20 students has reported seeing a person at school with a gun (1). Even for those students outside of the direct bullying paradigm, being witness to such activity has the potential to either legitimize it by demonstrating that it is commonplace or it has the potential to create a perception of lacking safety. If students do not feel safe at school, they will more likely be distracted from their studies and miss school. Suicide rates for children continue to climb and many experts attribute this to a feeling of not being safe. In the past 30 years, suicide rates have grown by more than 50% (1). If students feel that they are not safe and that no one cares due to poor bullying interventions, they are more apt to fall into a pattern of despair. As a result, the first portion of a successful anti bullying campaign has to focus on spreading the perspective that adult stakeholders do care and that people being bullied or abused are not alone. With this in place, directly addressing the root causations can being.
For people that perpetrate bullying practices, the causation can generally be broken down into three factor categories including family factors, school factors and peer group factors. Children who are from homes with little adult supervision can indirectly become bullies through lack of confidence and reinforcement. For example, if a young person bullies, is not corrected, and gains what they want from the situation, that negative behavior has been reinforced because the young person received what they wanted. While this hands off dynamic can spawn bullies, so can abuse. Children who are victims of abuse or bullying at home have a higher propensity for themselves being bullies (1). These children may look at bullying as attacking before being attacked or as a process of gaining "power and importance" that do not feel they have in their own homes (1). As a result, even total school based interventions for bullying will not be completely efficacious as they are not properly addressing what goes on at home.
While home factors can often be the most telling root causation of bullying, there are school and peer group related factors. "Because school personnel often ignore bullying, children can be reinforced for intimidating others" (Cohn & Carter 1). Conversely, if a school has direct intervention when any element of bullying is displayed or they have a high well known set of standards for interpersonal behavior, bullying would not be reinforced or socially rewarding thereby decreasing the benefits of such a practice (1). Quite simply, if there is no benefit for the action in the perception of the aggressor, there is no need to conduct the behavior. Peer groups, which can exist both in and outside school, can also influence student behavior. If a child is hanging around a group of children that condone or champion bullying, they may continue the process as a means of gaining approval by that particular social group (1). Children who may not really want to bully, therefore, can find themselves in a position where they feel they have to bully (1). Targeting group think and controlling the company in which the student keeps is one way in which this paradigm can be combated.
Victims too have propensities that make them more likely targets. In this regard, students who are insecure, passive and do not appear as if they would retaliate are safer targets for bullies. There have been studies that have shown victims have a higher prevalence of overprotective parents or school personnel that has caused them to fail to develop their own coping skills (1). Stopping bullying, as a result, is not just protecting victims but empowering them with coping skills (1). It has also been reported that many victims long for approval and this makes them continue to make attempts to interact with the aggressor (1). Rather than helping, this simply puts them in a position where they will get bullied more. According to Thornberg, the most prevalent social representation on bullying cases among children is viewing it as a reaction to deviance (311). The second most frequently used explanation by children for explaining bullying is that it is a manifestation of social positioning (311). The entire process, regardless of root causation, promotes moral disengagement among children (311). This means that left untreated, bullying does not get better, it actually gets worse.
The statistics show both on a quantitative level and on a qualitative level that bullying is a major social problem for young people today. With the advent of the internet, the problem is not getting better but worse. Bullying has the potential to put victims at a higher rate for suicide, depression and low self esteem. In addition, it makes it more difficult for students to receive the necessary degree of educational efficacy required in a quickly changing world. For bullies that get away with it, they have a higher propensity for growing up into adults that bully thereby continuing the cycle. To stop bullying, critical stakeholders must first demonstrate that they care through modeling behavior and action. This has to occur on the community, home and school level with the focus of attacking the root causation categories: home, school and peer groups. The current problems related to bullying are troubling because the practice can be controlled and eradicated with the properly directed interventions.
Cohn, Andrea & Andrea Canter. "Bullying: Facts for Schools and Parents." NASP Resources.
School Bullying Study - Policy Research Paper. https://essaynews.com/other/policy-research-paper-school-bullying-100/
Thornberg, Robert. "Schoolchildren's Social Representations on Bullying Cases." Psychology in Schools. 47.4, 311-327.