Middle School Bullying: Preventing It & Coping with It by Brandon Risher, M.A.
Bullying is defined as the use of superior strength or influence to intimidate someone, typically to force him or her to do what one wants. In bullying, there tends to be a real and/or imagined fear of harm and/or retribution for the bullied. Cyberbullying is more difficult to stop because it can happen 24/7, anonymously, and the messages online can last forever.
Characteristics of a Bully or a Victim
A Bully tends to be hyper-‐active and often has a greater acceptance of antisocial behaviors. They are oftentimes popular and are generally unaffected by inflicting pain and suffering on others. They are aggressive, sometimes easily frustrated, often have less parental involvement, or may even be having issues at home. They think badly of others, have difficulty following rules, view violence in a positive way, and have friends who bully others.
A Victim (the target of the bully) tends to have lower levels of self-‐esteem, has high anxiety, and also has a heightened degree of loneliness. They are often targeted for being different from their peers (such as being overweight or underweight), or might be ridiculed for being unable to afford what other kids consider “cool.”
Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Somatic complaints
- Changes in eating habits
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors
Even if they can’t solve the problem directly, an adult can give comfort, support, and advice. They should encourage the child to report bullying if it happens, and additionally they can talk about how to stand up to kids who bully. Some good tips might be to use humor to disarm the bully, or say “Stop” directly and confidently to the Bully. Adults may then offer solutions if those actions don’t work -‐ such as walking away from the bully. Adults should talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or near groups of other kids. For cyber-‐bullying, remember that advising a child to disengage from their online community may be more stressful or even ineffective. Try to outline solutions that they will more readily embrace.