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Myths and Facts About Bullying

A topic of great concern among American society, and parents in particular, is that of youth violence. The media often makes the situation appear as though youth violence is on the increase in the United States. However, scientific research shows that youth violence is not truly increasing, but that certain environmental factors make the statistics read as though the violence is increasing.

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Statistics can be influenced by a number of factors besides actual increases in violence, such as the introduction of ‘zero tolerance’ policies in schools or the reduction of police discretion on police forces.These environmental factors lead to more incidents of youth violence being detected by those who measure youth violence, but dose not actually represent an actual concrete increase in the violence. However, there is one area of youth violence that has increased somewhat over the past three decades. Although the increase is not drastic, bullying is a form of youth violence that is highly prevalent in all schools in North America, and abroad. Bullying is a lesser form of violence in which one or more students pick on, verbally or physically abuse another student who is viewed as a weaker child.This often takes the form of physical and/or psychological harm (Bastche & Knoff et al. , 1994). Although bullying is a major problem within the school system, the topic is not fully understood and there are many circulated myths related to the subject. This paper attempts to highlight some of these myths and clarify the actual facts that do exist within the documented literature. Myths about the topic of bullying are widespread and are commonly believed by the majority of individuals.One of the most common myths can even be seen in the above definition of bullying, in that the victims of bullying are not always weaker children than are the bullies. One of the myths about bullying relates to the fact that some schools say their do not have bullying. Sometimes schools with ‘zero tolerance’ policies in place believe that they have successfully managed to end bullying as a problem for their students, but it is highly unlikely that this is true (Byrne, 1994).There are many different ways bullying can occur beyond the sight of teachers and authority figures, as bullying is often a very subtle form of violence or harassment, and can be as simple as a glance from one student to another. The only difference between schools with the subject of bullying is whether or not they choose to deal with it in an effective manner. Schools that take a proactive approach to the problem of bullying, by educating their students and dealing with it promptly and firmly, are the most likely to have success in combating the issue, but no school will ever fully remove the problem of bullying (Byrne, 1994).Another common myth about bullying relates to how children are encouraged to deal with the issue. Nearly everyone can relate to a parent or teacher telling the victim of bullying to simply ‘ignore it. ’ Nearly all victims of bullying are told that they should ignore their bully, not give in to them or respond, as all the bully wants is to get a reaction. But bullying should not be ignored. Every student and child has the right to attend school without being harassed or bullied by other students (Hoover et al, 1992).To tell the student to simply ignore the problem is telling them that the problem does not matter, and the other student is within his or her own right to bully. This is not true. Victims of bullies should maintain records of the events and insist that the school deal with the problem effectively by punishing the bully (Hoover et al, 1992). Many adults believe that bullying really has no damaging effects on children. It is often believed that bullying is a part of life, or a part of growing up and that all children are teased over one topic or another. Thus, the lesson to be learned is how to brush it off and continue on with life.Some adults will say that “it builds character,” but this is not true. Bullying does have immediate and long term detrimental effects on victims. It certainly will build character, but not the positive time. Victims of bullies often carry the damage with them for the remainder of their life, and may become weary of social situations or develop a habit of being submissive to any other person who appears to be somewhat dominant (Craig, 1998). Victims of bullying have even been found to suffer from forms of post traumatic stress disorder, in that they often spend the majority of their school years in fear.The fear of bullying victims can also have negative impacts on their school performance. Thus, the effects of bullying are far from being fleeting or unimportant. Victims of bullying have their psychological injuries reinforced by such myths and untrue so called facts, as they never witness anyone telling them that it is not their fault, that they should not have to put up with bullying, or that the bully is the individual in the wrong. Another related myth is that bullying serves to toughen kids up and make them resistant to future problems as adults, but this is not true at all (Craig, 1998).Myths abound concerning who the targets and victims of bullying are. Many believe that the bully-victim dichotomy is one that is analogous to the strong-weak dichotomy. This, however is not true. Victims of bullies are often sensitive, caring individuals. While their kindness, intelligence, honesty or creativity may be taken as a form of weakness, in reality they are strong individuals who endure years of abuse at the hands of bullies (Olweus, 1997). The typical victim of a bully is not inclined towards violence in the least, making them an easy target, but hardly a wimp or weakling.Often this low inclination towards violence is a result of high levels of personal integrity and values, not a result of being a wimp. If society were made up solely of these so called ‘wimps’ and ‘weaklings’ society would be a much better and safer place to live. Many have viewed bullying as something at attacks individuals who are in essence, the best individuals society has created (Craig, 1998). They are smart, respectful, honest, creative, have high values, morals and integrity, and often have a very strong internal sense of fairness or justice.Bullies target these individuals because often they will not fight back due to their own values, but this does not make bullying acceptable or explainable. Other myths concern the relationship between bullying and social skills. Many people believe that it is the popular kids with good social skills that become bullies and pick on the children who do not have good social skills or who are psychologically weak. On the contrary, it is bullies who lack the social skills and who are themselves psychologically weak. Many bullies are in fact afraid of social situations or of rejection (Olweus, 1997).They set themselves up into social situations where they cannot be rejected because other children are afraid of them. Bullies often also suffer from low self esteem which is one of the reasons they derive a better sense concerning their own abilities through the harassment of other students. Bullies will often also target individuals whom they envy, either due to their increased social skills or higher intelligence. Unable to articulate the fact that they are envious, or in some cases actually wish to be the victim’s friend, bullies react with negativity towards these individuals (Rigby & Slee, 1991).Thus it is clear that there are quite a few myths concerning the topic of bullying. Bullying is a very serious problem that causes long lasting, and sometimes life long damage to victims (Craig, 1998). Bullying cannot be completely removed from any school system, but effective policies can be put in place for dealing with bullying. Such policies should take the side of the victims and assert to students that bullying, in any form, is not acceptable. Both bullies and victims should be taught effective social skills and skills of communication that allow them to sort through difficulties using words that are not harmful and a lack of violence.Bullies should be dealt with harshly in a manner that informs them that their behaviour is unacceptable, yet at the same time it should not be ignored that bullies themselves are often victims of lowered self esteem or may be victims of violence in another part of their life. Above all, the feelings of victims and their experiences should not be discounted by adults as ‘parts of life,’ ‘rites of passage,’ or ‘wimpy and sensitive. ’ The feelings of victims of bullying are very legitimate and should be dealt with immediately to prevent long term psychological effects (Craig, 1998).References Batsche, G. M & Knoff, H. M. (1994). Bullies and their victims: Understanding a pervasive problem in the schools. School Psychology Review, 23,165-174. Byrne, B. J. (1994). Bullies and victims in a school setting with reference to some Dublin schools. The Irish Journal of Psychology, 15, 574-586. Craig, W. M. (1998). The relationship among bullying, victimization, depression, anxiety and aggression in elementary school children. Personality and Individual Differences, 24,123-130. Hoover, J. H. , Oliver, R. & Hazler, R. J. (1992). Bullying: Perceptions of adolescent victims in the Midwestern U. S. A. School Psychology International, 13, 5-16. Olweus, D. (1997). Bully/Victim problems at school: Knowledge base and an effective intervention program. The Irish Journal of Psychology, 18, 170-190. Rigby, K. & Slee, p>T. (1991). Dimensions of interpersonal relation among Australian children and implications for psychological well-being. The Journal of Social Psychology, 133, 33-42. Online Sources: Bullying by Mobile Phone and Abusive Text Messaging – Child Bullying, http://bullyonline. org/schoolbully/mobile. htm Terrorism Starts in the Playground – http://www. bullyonline. org/schoolbully/terror. htm