Nowadays, bullying is a global problem. It is a universal, wide-spread phenomenon that has persisted for hundreds of years and currently takes place in various cultures and age groups; however, it is most vivid in youth. Unfortunately, bullying tends to occur most frequently in schools. Bullying is a serious issue, because it has both immediate and long-term negative effects on young people’s lives, may lead to health problems,such as psychological and physiological traumas and even suicide (Sanders & Phye, Hertz, Donato & Wright, 2013).
A clear definition of bullying has not been yet developed. An attempt to synthesize the definition from numerous scholars’ perspectives results in the following explanation of the phenomenon. Bullying is a repeated and persistent exposure of a person to victimization of any kind by another person or a group of people through which the latter exercise power abuse with a clear intention to hurt or humiliate the victim. The victims also referred to as the bullied are often physically inferior, of a younger age, and/or a social status different than that of the abuser, i.e. the bully. Bullying may be physical as well as verbal. Although some researchers disagree about defining verbal accusations as bullying, it should be noted that verbal abuse can leave psychological traumas not less dangerous or even by far more dangerous than physical traumas (Sanders & Phye, 2004). In fact, some sources single out three types of bullying such as physical (in a form of punching and hitting), verbal (teasing, name calling), and psychological (rumors, gossiping or social exclusion) (Understanding bullying, 2011). A relatively simple definition of bullying can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. “Bullying is one type of youth violence that threatens young people’s well-being” (Youth bullying, 2014). Among the particular negative effects of bullying, the CDC article lists social difficulties, emotional problems, academic/educational problems, and physical injuries. A Bulying.org fact sheet defines bullying as a deliberate, conscious, hostile, willful behavior powered and triggered by aggression and a strong dislike toward the victim who is considered and labeled as inferior, weaker, or unworthy (What is bullying, n.d.). This explanation serves greatly in showing the role and the motives of the perpetrator of violence and emphasizes what kind of behavior bullying is. In general, all definitions describe bullying as a traumatic negative phenomenon in the lives of young people and indicate that this issue should be addressed with effective monitoring and intervention policies (Youth bullying, 2014; Sanders & Phye, 2004).
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One of the problems regarding bullying is the public misconceptions about this phenomenon. Believing in myths prevents the society from effectively addressing and solving the problem of bullying and does not allow the victims to improve their status on their own or with the help of parents, teachers, other relatives, professionals or peers. The first myth is that bullying is a normal and inevitable part of the human life. Both parents and their children may believe in this myth. As a result, children will silently suffer from discrimination and abuse at school or on the streets, and parents would not take any steps to stop it. The second myth is that telling anyone will only make it worse. In fact, bullying may stop as soon as an authoritative individual, be it a parent, a teacher or a peer, interferes. It is statistically proved that bullying practices stop in less than ten seconds more than half of the time when peers intervene to protect the victim. The third myth is that standing out for oneself is always helpful. In reality, fighting back can make things worse and the bully even angrier. One more myth makes people believe that others are born bullies, when, in fact, bullying is a learned behavior. Finally, there is a myth that bullying is solely the school’s problem and teachers’ responsibility. Bullying is a wide social problem which means that all social institutions including educational facilities, families, and government should be involved in solving it (What is bullying, n.d.).
Partially because of the aforementioned misconceptions and partially because of the lack of effective counter-measures, bullying statistics and facts are shocking. It is estimated that bullying in school playgrounds takes place every seven minutes and once every twenty-five minutes in classrooms. About 20 -56% of young people are involved in bullying every year. Younger students tend to be bullied by their class- or group-mates (i.e. people of the same age), and older students either experience or practice indirect bullying so that the perpetrators of violence are often older than the victims. As a rule, seniors bully freshmen. Boys tend to suffer from physical bullying from other boys, whereas girls are more prone to practicing exclusion and gossiping to bully other girls. Bullies are characterized as impulsive, hyperactive, disruptive, aggressive, and having positive attitudes toward aggression which is why they show no mercy or feel no remorse about bullying and the bullied. Another interesting finding is that boy bullies are physically stronger than their victims, whereas girl bullies are often physically weaker than their victims or other girls in the class or group (What is bullying, n.d.; Hertz, Donato & Wright, 2013). The negative effects of bullying on health are ambiguous, but many researchers state that both victimized girls and boys experience and report depression and anxiety symptoms including sadness, headaches, apathy, and inability to adjust (What is bullying, n.d.; Understanding bullying, 2011). Some studies also indicate the cause-and-effect association between bullying and suicide or suicidal behaviors (Hertz, Donato & Wright, 2013).