There’s been a lot of talk in the news as of late pertaining to school shootings, which is certainly a scary thing to hear about—especially if you’re in school like me or if you have a child that is in school—because you never know if it’s going to happen to you. I’ve been thinking about writing about the topic of bullying and the many aspects of it for quite some time, but it’s not an easy topic to discuss; however, it is a topic that I feel needs to be addressed and acknowledged whether you’re a parent, student, worker, family member, or what have you that has been reading my blog. There isn’t going to be a single article about all aspects of the topic, but rather it will be a series of articles spread throughout the next few weeks or maybe even months depending on what information comes up. I wanted to start this series off with looking at warning signs that someone you know may be being bullied.
In a USA Today Magazine (2011) the Center for the Prevention of Bullying Abuse and School violence at the University at Buffalo (N.Y.) bullying was described as, “involve[ing] an imbalance of power between the person doing the bullying and the target. That could be due to size, age, perceived sexual orientation—anything that could put someone at risk of having less power—and it’s also intentional. It’s designed to inflict harm, either psychological or physical” (p. 12). Bullying is a predominant topic in today’s world it seems and people often wonder why that is. One would think that after so many school shootings—school shootings appear to primarily be the result of bullying—people would stop bullying others, but that isn’t the case. It seems to me that people are not thinking before they speak and not thinking of the potential consequences of hurting ones feelings. For example: A few weeks ago a good friend of mine opened a new social networking site and received a lot of negative feedback from people he knew in real life. Generally this person takes negative feedback relatively well, but the way these two other individuals were presenting the negative feedback was very cruel in my opinion. My friend has a history of health problems and has been undergoing a lot of stress so I was afraid that he may take that next step whether it was fighting these two individuals when he next saw them or something worse; however, my friend handled the situation very well and is actually getting quite a lot of publicity for his new social network.
Not all situations end like this. Some people do take action against their tormentors or even against themselves, but before they get that far in taking that step; there are some signs to keep on the lookout for:
I’ve heard that people will often distance themselves from others when they are being bullied. They won’t want to spend time with friends anymore and will often avoid social gatherings. This can be because they’re embarrassed to be around people perhaps they don’t feel worthy of being around people since they’ve been bullied which lowers their self-esteem and self-worth.
#2 Loss of Interest:
People often seem to lose interest in things that they once enjoyed when they’re being bullied. This could be due to them being bullied because of their interests or maybe the one bullying them is also involved in what they were involved in such as a sport or playing a musical instrument. If someone has been passionate about a particular interest and suddenly doesn’t want anything to do with the interest, they may be being bullied.
Those who are being bullied will often try to avoid any situations that could potentially lead to them being bullied again. If your child is someone who always enjoyed going to school and then one day they seemingly decide that they hate school that is a sign that something may be going on. People don’t want to be bullied and will do whatever they can to avoid it.
#4 Cuts and Bruising:
Cuts and bruises can be a sign of being bullied physically, but it can also be assign that the person you know may be harming themselves. These signs may be harder to find—especially if the person doesn’t want you to know about what’s happening. If you have children this may be particularly difficult to spot because, let’s face it, kids like to rough-house, but you can always ask if something is going on.
#5 Other Changes in Behavior:
If you know someone who is being bullied you will probably notice different behavioral changes that I haven’t listed here. Be vigilant. This is one of the most important things you can do and will probably be the way that you find out that someone you know is being bullied because they will not always approach you to let you know that something is going on.
When someone starts to plan something, it means that they are thinking about taking the next step. From what I’ve been taught, people who generally kill themselves or have gone to their workplace to kill others often have a plan that has been thought out in advance. If you find out that your friend has a plan to take the next step, make sure to do something. I’m not saying that there is always a plan, but more likely or not there is, so if you find out someone is being bullied don’t just assuming it will go away on its own because they may have a plan formulated and they may be ready to take action.
This all leads to another question: how does one prevent someone from taking the next step? There are a few basic ways that you can try to prevent someone from taking the next steps after being bullying and also to help stop someone from being bullied.
Acknowledge the Signs:
One thing I’ve often hear of is people not acknowledging the signs that someone they know is being bullied. They see the signs, but they end up ignoring them and sometimes hoping that they go away. If your child, friend or co-worker tells you that they are being bullied, you shouldn’t ignore this cry for help. When you see potential signs of someone being bullied, don’t ignore the signs, acknowledge them and make a connection with that person.
You’re Not Alone:
Whether you’re being bullied or know someone that is being bullied, always remember that you’re not alone. There is always someone else out there who is more than willing to help you in any way that they can even if that just means being there to listen to what you have to say. Don’t try to handle the situation on your own because there are people out there that are willing to help.
You shouldn’t be afraid to take action if you find out that someone you know is being bullied. Even if you don’t think it would be wise to intervene yourself, make sure someone whom you think can handle the situation does know about it. If it’s a classmate, tell a teacher or better yet, tell their parents about what’s going on. You may save their life. Don’t be afraid to take action!
There are some common misconceptions when it comes to bullying. For one thing, many people believe that bullying only takes place in school, but that is not the case. Bullying can take place anywhere: in school, at the work place, online, in the home, and a variety of other locations. Also people seem to believe that bullying only takes place at a certain age, but bullying can take place at any stage of life development. So just make sure that you are aware of these signs and that you don’t sit ideally by waiting for something to happen when you have the opportunity to prevent it. Otherwise, you may end up telling a story like the ones I found in People (2011):
ALEXA BERMAN, 14
Now that it’s too late, Debbie and Alan Berman wonder if they should have talked to each one of the parents of the girls who bullied their daughter Alexa, 14. “I kept thinking it’s going to work itself out,” says Alan. “We should have taken the bull by the horn and said, ‘Look, we’re going to sit down with all the parents involved.’” Alexa hanged herself in 2008, days before she was to start the ninth grade. She spent the previous year trying to salvage a friendship with a group of girls. “She would go to a table with those girls, and they would all get up and walk out on her,” recalls Alan, who says the torment escalated to cyberbullying. Today the Bermans tell parents not to be afraid to intervene in their kid’s life: Know their passwords and check websites. Alexa told a girl online about her intentions. “The girl asked, ‘What are you going to do today?’” says Debbie. “Alexa said, ‘I think I’m going to take my life’” (Aradillas, Levy, & Bailey, 2011).
MICHAEL BERRY, 17
“My child asked for help, just like he was taught, starting from kindergarten: If there is a problem, you report it,” says Lisa Ford-Berry, who says a student learned that Michael was a virgin. Through e-mails and texts, he taunted her son, who she says told school counselors. The school, she says, never told her, and neither did her son. On his 17th birthday in 2008, Michael shot himself in the boys’ bathroom. In a letter to his parents, Michael wrote, “The school was the reason why I took my life.” (A spokesman for the San Juan Unified School District says that any complaints of bullying are taken seriously, but he is unable to comment on this specific case.)
Says Ford-Berry: “When Michael died I thought the school would want to get to the bottom of it, like I did. But they didn’t.” Now an anti-bullying activist, she tells parents to “pay attention and … don’t abdicate your responsibilities to the school. Make sure you are leading the charge of your child’s well being” (Aradillas, Levy, & Bailey, 2011).
So make sure that you’re aware of what’s going on with those around you and don’t be afraid to get involved.
ARADILLAS, E., Levy, D. S., & Bailey, M. (2011). WHAT MY CHILD TAUGHT ME. People, 76(15), 84-88.
YOUNGSTERS WILL SHOW SIGNS OF VICTIMIZATION. (2011). USA Today Magazine, 140(2799), 12
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Photo Credit: First Class Care
Posted on March 23, 2012 by Felicia