Cyberbullying is one of the most dangerous forms of bullying for the simple reason that online we are given the luxury of anonymity and we are often our worst selves when we are anonymous. We are angrier and meaner, and we do and say things we would never do or say in person. It’s easy to make cruel remarks to others when you don’t have to do it to their faces.
For better or worse, anything published online is public and permanent. These are two important ‘p’ words that today’s generation does not understand. They will say “I deleted it”, but it doesn’t matter if we deleted something from our devices. Once it is out there in the cyber world, it exists forever in the public domain.
Bullying is devastating for those who experience it, and it is extremely unpleasant for those who witness it as well. Bullying doesn’t just impact the lives of victims and the bullies themselves, but it also affects those who see it happen in the school or the community.
Imagine if every day when you went to work there was a strong possibility that one of your colleagues was going to be brutally teased, socially excluded, or embarrassed. It wouldn’t be an easy place to function. How can we expect children to learn if our school environments are rife with the feeling that at any moment somebody could be a victim in a similar situation?
It is difficult to determine what causes bullying but there are usually specific indicators which we can learn to recognize. In order to do so, we must first understand the temperament of children and how they develop. All children have inborn, pre-wired temperaments which are evident from infancy. Some babies are more assertive about letting others know what they need, while other babies are more passive and will wait until someone takes care of them. Children who are aggressive and like to be in charge are at risk for becoming bullies while shy and passive children are much less likely to become a bully.
A lot of bullying, especially among girls, has to do with language. A child who has very strong language skills knows how to use a turn of phrase to make people laugh or to make people cry. These children are at greater risk of being bullies than a child who struggles with language.
Parents and schools share a common purpose — they want to educate the children in their care and ensure they grow to be healthy adults. However, there is one place where parents and schools diverge in their goals. The parents are, rightfully, always looking to protect the interests of their own child. The school though, must protect the interests of all the children. Most of the time these two things go together, but sometimes, especially in bullying situations, they may diverge.
Teachers and administrators are often confronted by hurting parents whose child is being bullied and they feel the school is not doing enough to stop it. There are several difficult truths that must be confronted in this situation. The first is that the very best bullying prevention programs being rolled out in schools are accomplishing somewhere between a thirty to forty percent reduction in bullying, in spite of all their resources. Basically this means that even if your school is doing everything they should be doing, the international standard suggests there will still be quite a lot of bullying that parents and children will have to deal with.
The term bullying is used frequently, and while there certainly is a great deal of bullying happening, it is important to know that bullying is a very specific type of aggressive behavior. Very often children fight over things. Two children want the same ball on the playground, or two children want to be first down the slide. This is fighting between two peers of equal power. It is not bullying. It may be behavior that we want to work on, but it isn’t bullying.
Bullying is the deliberate abuse of power to harm another person. There are three critical components in that definition, so let’s consider each of them: