The Department of Education (2010) recently defined bullying as, “…a form of harassment; which can include verbal, written, or cyber name-calling; can be physically threatening or humiliating…” (p. 2). While bullying typically peaks in middle school and then declines, youth may experience victimization at any point during their school years. Understanding the diversity of bullies, victims, and circumstances in which victimization can occur is essential in creating a safe environment for youth.
Did You Know?
- The stereotypical small and weak victim is not always the first to be bullied. Instead, adolescent jealousy makes popular, successful students targets of victimization too.
- Boredom is a commonly reported reason among youth for engaging in both traditional and cyber- bullying (i.e., bullying through text message, email, or other social media).
- Physical and verbal bullying is more common among boys, while girls participate in more relational bullying including spreading rumors or excluding victims from social events.
- Youth identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) may be especially at risk of experiencing bullying. In a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control (2011), LGBT youth reported being threatened or injured with a weapon at a greater rate than their heterosexual peers.
- The bully-victim dyad is not the only relationship that influences victimization. Bystanders can serve as instigators as well as barriers to bullying behavior. Bullying is a group phenomenon with adolescents reporting more group-bullying than single bullies versus single victims.
- Parental support and warmth are protective factors associated with less bullying and less victimization.
Preventing and Intervening in Bullying
While bullying often involves repeated harassment, waiting to intervene until after the second offense should be avoided. Parents, in addition to teachers, school administrators, and police officers, play a vital role in preventing and intervening in bullying that occurs in school and in cyberspace. Schools and parents with consistent bullying and harassment policies create a culture of support that encourages bullied youth to seek help.
Adolescents typically agree that large-scale presentations and lectures which only discuss bullying are ineffective. Instead, teachers, parents, and program providers are encouraged to target prevention efforts toward relatable, real-world scenarios for youth. Small group discussions and activities are preferred over large-scale presentations. Surveys given to students, teachers, and parents which assess the type and prevalence of bullying are essential in the early stages of developing and implementing an effective program targeted toward adolescent bullying.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Sexual identity, sex of sexual contacts, and health- risk behaviors among students in grades 9-12: Youth risk behavior surveillance, selected sites, United States, 2001-2009. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 60(7), 1-133.
- U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. (2010, October). Dear colleague letter. Washington, D.C: USDCV.