Walking through the hallways of elementary school, alone and afraid of being ridiculed, was the daily routine of my childhood classmate, John Smith. Childhood should be a time of innocently playing games and enjoying life with friends, but instead it became a time in when John was made to be a social outcast, forced to spend lunch and recess alone. Throughout first and second grade, John had a joyful personality, but the more he got ridiculed, the more he became reclusive, spending each day wishing he could be anywhere else but school. The final memory I have of John took place in the schoolyard in third grade when some of our fellow classmates pelted John with ketchup packets, which left him crying and covered in bruises. After that event, John’s parents removed him from school.
The sad truth is that cases of children being bullied like John’s are much too common. In a study by the American Psychological Association, authors Jennifer Knack and Lauri Jensen-Campbell found that the “estimates of American children who report being repeatedly bullied by their peers have ranged from 10% to 30%” (Knack, et al. 217). Bullying is a growing social issue in America that if not addressed can lead to millions of children being subject to the same ridicule as John Smith. Finding ways to prevent bullying is a challenging task, as some feel that bullying can be overstated, claiming that the term “bullying” is too often cited. Despite these challenges, the issue of bullying, whether in the playground or online, must be addressed, as being bullied can lead to severe health issues such as suicide, depression, anxiety, or physical pain. In order to decrease the number of children being bullied across the country, schools should utilize an online incident-management system that will promote a “no tolerance” culture for bullying.
Bullying, as defined by The Complete Guide to Understanding, Controlling & Stopping Bullies, is when a child “is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons” (“Defining Bullying Behavior” 19). The original form of bullying, which existed before cyber bullying, has always been known as schoolyard bullying, which is “direct, face-to-face behaviors that include punching, kicking, and teasing, and are visible to observers and readily perceived to be deliberate” (Barnes, 207). Schoolyard bullying can best be epitomized by a case such as my own experience with John Smith. The goal of those who participate in schoolyard bullying is to make an individual feel socially unaccepted or excluded from the rest of the children. Due to the overt nature of schoolyard bullying, it is easier to recognize than other forms of bullying.
However, not all forms of bullying are so overt. In the past decade a modern form of bullying that has developed that is covert in nature is known as cyber bullying. Avina Glasner, in the Journal of Social Sciences, defines cyber bullying as “kids using cyber technology to electronically tease, bully, harass their peers with texting, voicemails, emails, and posts on public websites, like Facebook” (535). Cyber bullying is much more covert than schoolyard bullying, as children are able to secretly hide behind computer monitors to ridicule other students without the fear of being caught or punished by schools. In fact, “41% of students who had been cyber –bullied didn’t know the identity of the person who was bullying them” (“Cyber Bullying” 18). Unlike schoolyard bullying, cyber-bullying makes it easier for bullies to victimize an individual publicly at any time, even when the student is at home. Tara Parker-Pope, in a New York Times article, argues that through social networking, kids have the ability to bully others online at any moment due to the direct access to all students via the Internet. Parker-Pope states, “the Internet is not functioning as a separate environment but is connected with the social lives of kids in school” (Parker-Pope 1). She also focuses upon how a child being bullied will often be unsure how to deal with the problem, as they could feel that there is no escape from being bullied. This inability to cope with being bullied, coupled with the widespread nature of the issue, effectively conveys how harmful cyber bullying can be and why this social issue needs to be addressed.
Although schoolyard and cyber bullying are two different forms of bullying, both still have similar affects on victims. Jennifer M. Knack and Laurie Jensen Campbell, in their 2011 book entitled Social pain: Neuropsychological and health implications of loss and exclusion, write about the long-term health implications that bullying can have both physically and emotionally. They explain how children who are bullied can develop emotional and physical issues due to a social pain, which is caused by a lack of positive relationships. Knack claims, “that humans have a fundamental need to belong and to have ongoing positive significant relational bonds” (Knack, et al. 215). Knack and Jensen Campbell argue that certain physical ailments that are caused by stress have been proven to arise from persistent bullying such as, “abdominal pain, headaches, chest pain, back pain, and pain in arms, legs, and joints” (Knack, et al. 218). Knack and Campbell’s research indicates that the psychological effects of bullying can result in physical ailments, and the research of another scholar, Catherine Saint Louis, has indicated that this process can continue well into adulthood. Indeed, Saint Louis observes that, “victims of bullying in childhood were 4.3 times more likely to have an anxiety disorder as adults” (Louis, 1). Through these studies, bullying is proven to directly cause psychological and physical complications, which can affect children for the rest of their lives.
One of the commonly held opposing views is that those who talk about bullying are just complaining or exaggerating. Emily Bazelon, in a New York Times article, expresses her belief that “the word is being overused-expanding, accordion like, to encompass both appalling violence or harassment and a few mean words” (Bazelon, 1). Bazelon’s main claim is that society is taking the term “bullying” too far and this obsessive nature is what is keeping us from addressing the issue. This article presents an interesting counterpoint that perhaps we cite bullying too often. Although there are some cases in which a child could be seeking attention so they claim they are being bullied, I still believe that there is nothing wrong with identifying bullying when it occurs in major or minor forms. Major forms of bullying exist such as when kids in my elementary school pelted John Smith with ketchup packets. There are also minor cases such as forcing John to eat alone or pushing books off a child’s desk. Although varying extremes of bullying do occur, which can lead to varying health implications, I still consider minor forms of bullying to count as bullying. Bazelon’s claim raises the question as to where do we draw the line between harassment and “a few mean words”? If we were to tolerate “a few mean words,” then students can begin to feel that these few words, spoken to injure another, are a part of acceptable behavior. In time, if students believe that a few mean words are acceptable, then what is to stop them from believing that more extreme cases of bullying are acceptable? In order to protect children from the scarring effects of bullying, children should not be subjected to either harassment or a few mean words, as in order to cut down on bullying kids should be taught to have kindness and respect for each other at all times.
Finding solutions to a social issue such as bullying is often difficult, as there is usually not one immediate fix to the problem. In the case of bullying however, mandating schools to have a comprehensive incident management system can provide a long-term working solution to the issue. This management system would allow students, teachers, and parents the ability to report cases of bullying. Katie Johnson’s article in the journal American School and University explains how schools are using this technology to cut down on bullying. This system is structured so that all reports of either cyber or schoolyard bullying are sent to the proper officials, which then ensures that resolutions to each case are made because the tabulated resources provide data that can help teachers intervene in cases of bullying more effectively. “Team members collaborate through the platform to share ongoing findings and help connect all the dots needed to ensure a safe and responsive approach” (Johnson, 1). Although this is a system that reports and ensures individual solutions to each case, it also helps to create an environment where bullying is not tolerated. If bullies are always reprimanded for their actions, then eventually all students will realize that these actions are unacceptable. If kids are able to get away with bullying then they think nothing is wrong with the way they are acting. Working towards a “no tolerance” culture through the use of a comprehensive incident management system can provide the most direct solution to bullying.
Children across the country are affected by bullying, whether in the schoolyard or online. Providing a firm stance against bullying, by promoting a no tolerance culture through the use of comprehensive incident management systems offers a long term solution that can help schools decrease the number of cases of bullying. Through the use of such a system, parents and schools can help protect children like John Smith from the negative effects of bullying, which are both physical and emotional. Nearly everyone has seen cases of bullying occurring at some point in their life, and to prevent other children from such emotional distress, we must look to address this social issue.
Barnes, Amy. “The Invisibility of Covert Bullying Among Students: Challenges for School Intervention.” Australian Journal of Guidance & Counselling 22.2 (2012): 206-26. Ebscohost. Web. 8 Apr. 2013.
Bazelon, Emily. “Defining Bullying Down.” New York Times. N.p., 11 Mar. 2013. Web. 8 Apr. 2013.
“Chapter One: Defining Bullying Behavior.” Complete Guide to Understanding, Controlling & Stopping Bullies & Bullying: A Complete Guide for Teachers & Parents. N.p.: Atlantic, 2007. 17-33. Ebscohost. Web. 8 Apr. 2013.
“Cyber Bullying: Understanding and Preventing Online Harassment and Bullying.” School Libraries in Canada 25.4 (2006): 17-22. EbscoHost. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.
Glasner, Aviva T. “On the Front Lines: Educating Teachers about Bullying and Prevention Methods.” Journal of Social Sciences 6.4 (2010): 535-39. Ebscohost. Web. 8 Apr. 2013.
Johnson, Katie. “Bullying Prevention.” American School & University 85.1 (2012): 34-37. EbscoHost. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.
Knack, Jennifer M., and Lauri A. Jensen-Campbell. “Bullying and Its Long-Term Health Implications.” Social Pain: Neuropsychological and Health Implications of Loss and Exclusion. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2011. 215-36.Ebscohost. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.
Parker-Pope, Tara. “Parents Often Unaware of Cyber-Bullying.” New York Times. N.p., 3 Oct. 2008. Web. 8 Apr. 2013.
Saint Louis, Catherine. “Effects of Bullying Last Into Adulthood, Study Finds.” New York Times. N.p., 20 Feb. 2013. Web. 8 Apr. 2013.