Bullying has been a problem within various societies and communities for decades. It is commonly known as the act of harming and/or intimidating another person (Pegis,2013), but it can also be referred to as the exploitation of an imbalance of power (Mindy, Lowen 2012). Though it may sound like an ancient concept, it is still used as much, or potentially even more than ever before.
Many communities and influential persons have come out and expressed their past experiences with bullying and have publicly declared their desire to end or at the very minimum, reduce bullying, but there has not been much development. Before further elaborating on this topic, a general explanation of the concept of bullying is required.
Defining The Issue
Bullying revolves around the idea of harassing another person based on a plethora of aspects ranging from their physical appearance to the individual's demeanor. This common form of harassment consists of three kinds of people.
The bully uses a multitude of techniques to intentionally degrade or harm the victim. These techniques can be categorized into 4 types; verbal, physical, emotional, and social bullying, but there is a newfound category of bullying that has emerged in the newer generation of technology known as cyberbullying.
The second side is the victim, who is traditionally someone weaker than the bully that receives the harassment. The victim is usually someone who stands out in some unique way or displays distinct characteristics, interests, and/or abilities (Pegis,2013).
The final main side is the bystander, who is someone that watches an act of bullying or crime take place but chooses not to intervene and prevent it (Pegis,2013).
These are the most recognized sides, but in certain situations, there may be a side familiar as a bully victim. Essentially, their side depends on those around them, as they can freely bully their victims unless their own bullies are in the vicinity, in which they must revert to a victim.
Bullying dates back to centuries ago around the 1530s (Donegan, 2012). Though bullying had only been acknowledged as a form of harassment a couple of centuries ago, its origins trace back even further to times in which the human race was still evolving.
Humans have a natural instinctive trait revolving around competing to survive because human ancestors were forced to compete with other species in order to gain dominance and leverage, ultimately leading to humans today (Donegan, 2012). Along with the evolution of human physical and mental aspects, came the evolution of this instinctive trait.
This trait had begun as a direct tool for survival in order to overcome obstacles through any means, such as defending and hunting, but today it has become a trait that allows us to survive in the competition between people in society. This competitive hierarchy and survival trait are thoroughly expressed within educational, social, and economic realms as people are forced to constantly compete against one another to gain a higher spot in this hierarchy and maintain a healthy, financially stable lifestyle (Donegan, 2012).
Today, this hierarchy and survival trait are unconsciously taught from a young age through school and work, as people are to outdo those around them in order to be acknowledged and move up within the hierarchy. From this unconscious teaching comes bullying, due to the continuous pressure from parents, peers, and other important figures in a child's life. As kids are pressured to be the best for the purpose of securing a happy life, they resort to bullying with intentions of corrupting their fellow peers and causing them to look worse, as a means to look and feel superior. These bullying tactics include pressuring others for answers to do better on assignments, spreading rumors to cause self-esteem issues or disrupt their social life, and so forth (Donegan, 2012).
It may seem as if the victim is the sole person who is affected severely, but in actuality, the bully suffers just as much. As a consequence of bullying being unconsciously taught to the youth, these bullies are acting on instinct instead of thinking about the consequences they’ll have to face both direct and indirectly.
The direct consequences are punishments from appropriate authorities such as teachers, parents, principals, etc. These figures of authority can choose the severity of the punishment, such as detention or in more extreme cases, expulsion.
The indirect consequences have a greater toll on the bullies as they cause problems that can last a prolonged period of time or potentially a lifetime, but kids are often unaware of these consequences. This lack of knowledge and ignorance is what leads these young bullies to develop future issues including “learning and friendships, and later on with work, relationships, income, and mental health” and inevitably turn them into, “antisocial adults who are more likely to commit crimes, batter spouses, and abuse their children.” (Rosenthal, 2008).
According to Bullying (Rosenthal, 2008), 60% of male bullies in middle school had a minimum of one court conviction by 24 years of age. A researcher analyzed the lives of 518 people whose ages ranged between 8 to around 50. Of these 518, those who became bullies had proven to receive a significantly higher amount of “driving citations, court convictions, had a higher rate of alcoholism, and were subject to antisocial personality disorders.”, this proves how bullies suffer long-term effects. The researcher further explained how intelligence-wise, these bullies were at the same level as other students, but by age 19 they had a more aggressive attitude which stunted the growth of their intelligence and lead them to rely on sexual conduct, drugs, and alcohol for a sense of accomplishment and happiness. “Approximately one-third of bullies are victims of bullying themselves… these children have a higher risk of depression and suicidal thoughts compared to other children.”, this statistic explicitly summarizes the toll of being a bully.
A common way for a person to become a bully is through trauma, which leads to an abuse of power. Bullies are often victims of abuse at home, in which they decide to channel that anger and frustration onto other kids. They begin to despise this state of powerlessness and bully others to gain control over their lives (Rosenthal, 2008). As these victims of bullying become frustrated and angry, they too decide to bully others as an outlet for their pent-up emotions. This chain of the victim becoming the bully is why bullying is practically an unyielding challenge to overcome.
Another way a person can become a bully is through social standings. Children often look up to the wrong people as role models or follow immoral people in order to gain social approval. Kids feel as if their social status will become greater through dominance. It is said that bullies have a low sense of empathy, and from this comes their ideology of gaining recognition through any means possible, even if that means relying on violent acts against innocent people (Pegis, 2013). The National Education Association has stated that through a survey of school kids from around The United States of America, 79% of male students and 89% of female students face a form of harassment at school (Pegis, 2013), exhibiting how customary bullying has become.
Onto the victim, who undoubtedly faces many problems not only during the bullying phase but can also carry lifelong scars from then onwards. Victims of bullying are innocent people who are deemed defenseless and vulnerable. They are the easiest targets in the bully's eyes as they will not retaliate, thus making the bully seem greater by many folds.
As stated previously, bullies lust for control, and to do this they will isolate those with any peculiar or unorthodox qualities and force them to change themselves in order to fall under the bully's definition of normal. LGBTQ and minority students are victims of bullying in most cases because of the unacceptance of them by certain people.
A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that eight out of ten LGBTQ students were victims of verbal bullying, and four out of ten were victims of physical bullying. Being discriminated against due to sexual orientation, something that people are not in control of, can cause damage to one's mental state and overall well-being.
Victims often face several psychological problems as a product of bullying. The main ones are depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and social difficulties (Sansone, 2008). In addition to this, somatic problems may arise, including a loss of appetite, migraines, and insomnia. Victims tend to avoid talking to others about these experiences because they feel as if they are overreacting or they begin to panic over whether or not their bully will find out and harass them more. The bully has instilled a fear into the victim, that some may carry with them for years to come, in other words, a sense of PTSD.
Society views bullying as an activity that children must face until they grow out of that phase of life. “Living in a culture that encourages competition and dominance, most Americans do not take bullying seriously.” (Rosenthal, 2008), though this quote refers to America, it can be applied to cultures and communities all over the world.
One of every four students faces verbal, physical, and/or social bullying within school-supervised areas, in addition to this 43% of high school students are afraid of using the school washrooms in fear of being assaulted or harassed (Rosenthal, 2008). Society dismisses this as something everyone must go through in order to mature, but it is this that grows into extortion, emotional terrorism, and school shootings (Rosenthal, 2008). In the United States, there were three million reports of bullying, and more than 160,000 students skipped or missed school in fear of being a victim of bullying (Rosenthal, 2008).
Nations with Westernized cultures have the most bullying, as children are more susceptible to violence through toys, movies, people, video games, and television shows. Western cultures practically encourage bullying and do not see any immorality with it.
Bullying is unquestionably nurtured by society. Children are growing up with movies and television shows that also encourage us to become familiar with bullying and accept it in our lives. These forms of media instill the notion that if one is unable to handle bullying, then they are to be perceived as weak or a coward. Such as the metaphor, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can’t hurt me”, which refers to not being insulted by mere words and that the only pain you should accept is physical, though words can cause psychological scars and even result in physical altercations.
One viewpoint can be that bullying is essential to growth, as it can allow kids to learn how to cope with social problems and overcome them. It also prepares kids for the real world in which people may be rude or disrespectful. Bullying can be seen as a way to develop what people may refer to as ‘thick skin’ or in other words, a tolerance to bullying of any kind. Some may say that physical bullying trains kids to get stronger and defend themselves, or that verbal bullying allows kids to see how futile mere words are if you are strong enough.
The other viewpoint would be that bullying causes detrimental physical and mental effects on both the victim and the bully. This perspective revolves around eliminating bullying, as it creates future criminals, suicide victims, depression victims, and so on. Along with this, bullying is absolutely unacceptable, and nobody should have a constant fear of getting bullied for simply being themselves.
Bullying is something that has had a large effect on youth and even some adults for centuries. It is a highly debatable, and controversial topic, in which stating whether or not it is necessary is difficult. Regardless, it will be something that will continue for generations, but it is something that society has the power to change.