I recently received an email from a reader suggesting that a good topic for an article would be “Bullying.” I was never aware of bullying much in my Scouting days (either as a Scout or as an adult)- maybe I was lucky or maybe I was unaware of my surroundings. The recent suicide of a young girl who could not face the bullying she was subjected to caused me to seek more information about this subject. Since I began my research for the article, I have received a tremendous amount of information and direction from a number of professionals dealing with this issue.
In An Age-old Problem that Needs New Solutions, authors Shelly Hymel and Sue Swearer state, “Bullying is an intentional act. The child who bullies wants to harm the victim; it is no accident. Bullying involves repeated occurrences… It is the repeated nature of bullying that causes anxiety and apprehension in victims, such that the anticipation of bullying becomes as problematic as the bullying itself. … Bullying is characterized by a power difference; an unfair fight where the child who bullies has some advantage or power over the child who is victimized. Bullying is not the same as “playing around,” it is about the abuse of power.”
Teasing takes place in homes, Scout troops, playgrounds, etc. Teasing is done in the spirit of good nature and fun. When teasing becomes excessive or intentionally mean spirited then it has crossed the line to bullying. Bullying can come with the new acquisition of power. The new patrol leader or newly commissioned military officer may feel the need to demonstrate the power associated with the new position and begin bullying.
Thus far we have discussed the more traditional form of bullying. There is another form of bullying that is just as destructive and even more difficult to detect. That is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is when one child uses the Internet, cell phone or other digital technology to threaten, embarrass or humiliate another child.
One of the problems with addressing the problem of bullying is dealing with the bullying myths. In a recent email to me Kat Eden, Director, Marketing Communications for education.com pointed out several of these myths for me. They include “things like bullying toughen kids up” or “kids should learn to deal with it on their own- don’t get involved” or “you should go right to the other parents if your child is being bullied.”
The person who is a bully was often the victim of bullying. Sometimes it is from a sibling. Often it is from a classmate. Sometimes it is an older child that is part of the family or a friend of the family. The victim sees this bullying as the use of power over him. When he gets in a position of power he often reacts in a similar manner.
Bullying is a much broader topic than I imagined. In a follow on article we will look at signs that your child might be being bullied, tips to eliminate bullying and some resources that are available to combat bullying.