CHANCES ARE THAT YOU WERE BULLIED. It might have happened decades ago. It could have happened in school, on the playground, in the neighborhood, at the movies or on the ball field. It might have happened just once. Or it might have happened 20, 30, 40 times over the course of a couple of years. But one thing is certain—you can still remember it clearly, the bullying and the bullies. You want to do whatever you can so that it doesn’t happen to a loved one. Or to any child. Because the problem is right now.
Right now: There are approximately 2.1 million bullies in American schools bullying 2.7 million victims.
Right now: The National Education Association estimates that on any school day 160,000 kids—15 percent of all school absenteeism—will purposefully miss school because they fear some form of bullying by other students.
Right now: Seventy one percent of students report that bullying is a problem at their schools, while 56 percent of students report that they personally stood by when someone was bullied.
There is no special target, no unique group that alone suffers from bullying. It can happen to any child—male or female, big or short, popular or a loner, athletic or artistic. Bullying knows no discrimination.
What is bullying?
Experts warn that the biggest mistake parents and caregivers can make is to assume that bullying is a natural part of childhood. Most kids are teased— and tease other kids. But bullying is distinct from teasing. Considered the leading international expert on bullying, psychology Professor Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen in Norway, defines it this way: “A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.”
Bullying is cruel and meant to be cruel. There is nothing playful or funny about it. Bullying is intentional, not accidental, it is meant to isolate the victims, it puts the victim in a position of powerlessness and it involves real emotional and—quite possibly—physical violence. The impact can last a lifetime. The cold fact about bullying is that experts have found that many who were bullied in their childhood suffer much higher levels of depression and social isolation as adults. At the same time, bullying behavior can lead to greater problems for the bully in adulthood as well. By the time they are 30, childhood bullies have a one-in four chance of having a police record. As psychology Professor Olweus states, “The victims don’t grow out of their problems. The bullies don’t grow out of their problems either.”
Bullying is serious and real. Parents need to know that it is behavior that cannot be ignored.