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What is Bullying?


Bullying can happen anywhere and to anyone. According to Bullying Canada http://bullyingcanada.ca, children have a good understanding of what bullying involves because they see it on a daily basis, particularly in school and school-like environments. In order to understand the true impact of bullying on a child’s emotional and physical wellness, it is imperative to examine the statistics.

Alarmingly, one out of 4 kids are bullied, one out of 5 kids are the bully and 282,000 high school students are attacked nationally, each month as reported by Bullying Canada (Bullying Canada Home, p. 1). According to Bullying Canada, a 2004 study published in the medical Journal of Pediatrics identified that one in 7 Canadian children aged 11 to 16 have fallen victim to bullying (How Common is Bullying, p. 1). Similarly, studies have found that bullying occurs once every 7 minutes on the playground and once every 25 minutes in the classroom (How Common is Bullying, p. 1).

With such a large percentage of the population of children who are directly affected by bullying, it is important to understand how to recognize and stop this behavior. As the act of bullying occurs in many forms it can be challenging to quickly identify and react to the negative behavior. Understanding this, Bullying Canada is working to help make bullying more readily identifiable by defining and sorting bullying into four common categories as follows (What is Bullying, p. 3):

1) Verbal bullying: excluding, whispering, name calling, sarcasm, teasing, spreading rumors, threatening, making negative references to one’s culture, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and unwanted sexual comments

2) Social bullying:  excluding, mobbing, scapegoating, excluding others from a group, humiliating others with public gestures or graffiti intended to put others down

3) Physical bullying: excluding, hitting, poking, pinching, chasing, shoving, coercing, destroying or stealing belongings, and unwanted sexual touching

4) Cyber bullying:  using the internet or text messaging to intimidate, put-down, spread rumors or make fun of someone

It is important to note that all four categories as described by Bullying Canada can and often times may overlap. Moreover, the act of bullying does not happen in isolation but rather can also extend into the larger community.

The Effects of Bullying Bullying Canada states that act of bullying can cause emotional and or physical trauma on children, which can result in serious long-term consequences. The emotional and physical effects of bullying are varied and individualized to each victim. In other words, each person who experiences being bullied will feel and react differently based on their individual circumstance. However, in the effort to help easily identify and ultimately put an end to bullying, Bullying Canada has reported that in general the experience of being bullied often makes children feel lonely, unhappy, frightened, unsafe, and lack confidence (What is Bullying, p. 7). In addition to these emotional effects children may display signs of withdrawal from their family, school and activities, with the desire to be left alone (What is Bullying, p. 9). According to Bullying Canada signs of withdrawal can manifest both emotionally and physically in children including:

Shyness Stomachaches Panic attacks Exhaustion—disruption in sleep patterns (for example: sleeping too much) Nightmares

The Consequences of Bullying—Two Sides of the Coin The act of bullying causes major consequences for both the victim and the aggressor. To begin, the victim of bullying can experience high levels of stress and anxiety, which can lead to lower self-esteem and confidence. The Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s Bill 14, Anti-Bulling Act states (2012):

Bullying can leave harmful and long-lasting marks on its victims. It can leave children with painful emotional and mental scarring and a lifelong struggle self-esteem. Bullying can therefore impair the ability of a victim to contribute meaningfully to society and to function normally in the victim’s family environment (p. 2)

Put differently, bullying can negatively affect the cognitive growth and development of a child who is a victim to bullying in regards to their future success.

On the obverse side of the coin, bullying also has major consequences on the aggressor. The Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s Bill 14, Anti-Bullying Act, states “bullies suffer as well, since bullying may be indicative of deeper psychological and emotional problems” (Preamble, p. 2). Bullying Canada states that children who bully without experiencing consequence will continue to do so into adulthood. If left unaddressed or ignored these bullying behaviors in childhood could result in violence and aggression in adulthood (What are the effects of Bullying, p. 4). According to Public Safety Canada, “students who engage in bullying are 37 per cent more likely than those who do not to commit offences as adults,” which could include: dating aggression, sexual harassment and potentially lead to criminal behavior (Anti Bullying Act, Preamble, p. 2).

Understanding that bullying is a vicious circle that results in only lose-lose scenarios, it is critical to come together as a community to help put an end to bullying.


Resources:

The following provide wonderful information and resources for extended knowledge related to anti bullying campaigns:

Bullying Canada
Stop a Bully
Bully Free Zone
Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Bill 14, Anti-Bullying Act, 2012
Ontario Ministry of Education—Safe and Accepting Schools

References:

Government of Alberta. (n.d.) What is Bullying. In Bulling Canada. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
MacLeod, Lisa. (2012). Legislative Assembly of Ontario. In. Bill 14, Anti-Bullying Act. Retrieved May 29, 2013.

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