Sharon J. of Philadelphia PA, USA, was at work when the call came in. Her 6-year-old son was attacked in class by his peer with a pencil. She was horrified. Racing to the school, and then into the nurse’s office she found her terrified little boy with a bandage on his cheek. The nurse said that a little more to the right and the other child would have taken out Sharon’s little boys’ eye.
The bully? A six-year-old little girl who wanted what the boy had for lunch instead of what was in her lunch box. The punishment, nothing. That’s right. After meeting with the mother of the little girl and the principal, Sharon was told, “kids fight”. She was only a little girl with a bad temper.
This and many other stories like it pour out of elementary, middle and high schools each day. The number of the bullying attacks is astounding. Almost 80% of students in the USA say that they have been bullied at one time or the other.
Parents? If you think that since you are sending your precious child off to college that the bullying is finally going to be over, think again, that statistic above represents college age children. Yes, bullying in college is on the rise.
Bullies, Bullies, Everywhere
We could rattle off some numbers to try to impress upon our readers how many bullies are out there, but they wouldn’t be accurate. Due to embarrassment, shame, or just no-one to tell, many incidents of bullying are never reported. The facts are:
- Bullying in college will not stop unless the bullies are reported and they pay for their actions. Laws should be passed that punishes the parents as well as the child in incidents of bullying that cause harm to any individual. Bullying in college leads to suicide, depression, and drop-outs.
- The numbers will continue to rise unless parents, teachers and those being bullied don’t begin to report what is going on.
- There is a rise in the act of suicide because of cyberbullying in college.
- Much bullying begins in the home, and this leads to school and college bullying. Many children that are bullied by overbearing parents tend to show the same disregard for their peers on the school playground, on college campuses, and on the Internet.
Yes, adults bully other adults. Australia reports show that they are #1 when it comes to workplace bullying. A target could be someone in the office that is:
- Well liked
- They excel at their jobs
Instead of trying to emulate the target a bully will try to manipulate them or sabotage their work. Many adult bullies are just people that do not cope well in society so they hide behind their bullying tactics. With bullies, it’s all about power.
After considering that there are adults who bully, parents must take the time to talk to their newly adult children on what a bully looks for in an individual target, and ask them if they are the bullies themselves.
This conversation must be had if we are to limit the instances of bullying that are infecting our Universities. Most bullies target those who are
- The new kid
- The quiet kid
- The kid that is not in a clique
- The kid that seems to always be in class early
- The kid with the high grades
- The kid that does not confront anyone or anything
- Kids of different races are often bullied
Bullies in college have also been known to target handicapped persons and the elderly. As horrible as this may seem to be, it is true. They look for those that weaker than themselves.
When Your Child is the Bully
No parent wants to get the call that their child is being bullied, but no parent wants to be embarrassed to know that their child is the perpetrator of the bullying. Our first reaction is, “not my sweet innocent child, they couldn’t be so mean”.
The one thing parents do know is their child. Sit down with your child and instead of lashing out at them, ask them what happened. Follow some of these suggestions:
- While listening to your child, only stop them if they are playing the blame game. Let them know you don’t want to hear what happened with other kids, just want part they played in the incident. Tell them that, when you point your finger at someone, 3 fingers are pointing back at you.
- Play a game of: what if it was you? Encourage them to have empathy for the bullied victim. Children and young adults need to learn empathy at home. If you as a parent always side with your child and never show them where they are wrong, you encourage them to be bullies.
- There is a poster that reads, “Children live what they learn”. This is so true, but that does not make you a bad parent. They could have gotten the bad habit of bullying from television or from their peers. Trying to fit in. Talk to them to see why they did what they did. And discuss ways of stopping it from happening again.
- If the bullying was cyber-bullying, your child should be made to get rid of the pages that were put up, and then make restitution to the individual that they harmed.
- Get the school involved in the punishment of the child who bullies and the apology to the victim. This should be a sit down of all parties involved. Sometimes this is enough to set a bullying kid straight.
If you as a parent of a bully stops this behavior when it arises, bullies can change. Sometimes it’s physical, a mental imbalance, sometimes it can be the influence of violent games they are exposed to Many parents use video games to get their kids out of their hair.
If your child has been exposed to years and years of violent games, they will have a violent nature and this could cause bullying.
It was bad enough when you had to worry about the playground or the middle school bully, but with the internet providing the perfects storm for kids to bully, how do you cut the throat of this new threat?
One thing parents need to do is to get the facts about cyber-bullying. It usually involves more than just one child doing the bullying and it can span over many types of venues. Some of the lethal weapons used to cyber bully are:
- Instant messages
- Posting pictures of your child without their, or your, permission
- Stealing your kid’s passwords and sending false messages on social media
When your child is attacked by many on social many, this is called attack by proxy. This can be super dangerous because they can have their identity stolen and placed in porn sites without their knowing. The bullies will also post their private addresses and phone numbers.
The reasons they do this is beyond one reason, but some are:
- They don’t think of the consequences of their actions, or
- They think they are getting back at the victim for some reason, and this person doesn’t see themselves as a bully.
What Can Parents and Educators Do?
First and foremost, have in place a set of guidelines and laws that address bullying behavior, and make serious consequences stick when bullying is observed and acknowledged. Also promote the following:
- An inclusive atmosphere campus wide. When students are more connected to one another there are less instances of bullying.
- Have in place policies based on bullying. If they are not in the student handbook, have the handbook redone to reflect the policies.
- Start groups such as writing groups where students can express what is going on with them in the college community. This gives students a voice. With this college writing service, start some type of contest for student essays on bullying.
- Have a reporting place that students feel safe to tell on suspected bullies, confidentially. No student like to feel like a snitch, this is one reason for lack of telling.
- Model how to act by treating all with respect and dignity. Children, and young adults will usually emulate who is leading them.
- Offer a class on computer ethics. Teach children the importance of not sharing their passwords with anyone. Show them how to keep information that they find online as proof of cyberbullying.
- Get trained to handle bullying. Anyone on campus that must deal with children directly would do well to have a workshop on how to handle bullies in college.
- Listen to both sides, don’t pre-judge what you are hearing from one side of the story. Keep an open mind.
- Do not ignore it or feel that it is a passing situation. If you are told that a student feels threatened, take it seriously.
- Intervention is key. When something happens take the time to do something about it right away, refer to the policies on bullying and if you need help, get other adults involved. There truly is strength in numbers in a case of bullying.
What can Students do?
Students often develop cliques in college, and because you want to be like by your friends, you may often feel the need to back them up no matter what. In the case of bullying, this is not a way to help your friend.
It takes a stronger friend to tell a friend that they are wrong when acting a certain way. If your friend decides that they are not going to like you anymore for telling them to do the right thing, then this is not a friend that you need in your life.
When you witness someone on campus bullying another student, whether it is your friend or not, don’t join in. Instead try some of the following suggestions:
- Stay calm- don’t argue with either of them, instead say something like, “come on we don’t have to be like that, this is not high-school”. Many students in college do not want to be made to look like they are acting like high-schoolers and will stop the behavior, especially if a friend tells them this.
- If it is your friend, steer them away from the other person, they don’t necessarily have to kiss and make up or anything like that. Everyone is not going to like everyone.
- If you walk up on a fight, ask bystanders why they are not doing something and stop the fight. Taking one of the people away with you and showing bystanders that they should get involved.
- Talk to a person that you know is a bully when you are alone with them. Confront their behavior and ask them why they choose to act that way. Give them reasons that you would not participate in that type of behavior, and if necessary, let them know that if they continue to show that type of behavior you will not be associated with them.
- If you are afraid of your friend that is a bully. Report them to an authority that will not tell that you reported them. It is better to do something than to wait for the worst to happen.
This is just a few of the things that can be done when one is a bully. Cyber bullying has reached a high peak and if we as those on the sidelines don’t do something to correct the behavior in those that practice the bullying, we are just as guilty as they are, if not worse than them.
So, if you see it, report it, step in and be a part of the solution, not the problem.