Bullying can be tricky for parents and kids to navigate. Learn how to recognize the signs, scenarios and symptoms of bullying to keep children and teens safe.
A school hallway. Two kids. One pinned against a locker. Another poised to punch. Other kids nearby, watching, laughing, taunting. These are some of the images that appear in our minds when thinking about child or teen bullying – some inspired by film and TV, others from memories. But bullying does not always fit inside this scene, and youth on the receiving end are not the only ones who get hurt.
October’s National Bullying Prevention Month provides us with the opportunity to broaden our understanding of bullying and build resilience in kids and teens. At Boys & Girls Clubs, youth learn how to avoid bullying as an emotional release and practice skills like introspection, self-control and empathy to navigate bullying in schools, among friends and in cyberspace.
From exclusion to electronics, learn more about what, why and how bullying can impact kids and teens and ways to be proactive against it.
Perhaps the first question about bullying is how to define it. Bullying is intentional harm that is repeated and tries to create a power imbalance. Let’s unpack this:
Bullying also involves three essential parties: the perpetrator, the target and the witness. Many youth will play a combination of these roles in their social interactions. For example, a middle schooler upset by a rumor that damages their reputation may also be spreading lies about their classmates to help take attention off of them.
Bullies also take pleasure in having an audience. Whether onlookers are enjoying the spectacle, watching on disengaged or trying to intervene, their presence allows bullies to show off their dominance and be remembered for it by their peers. Even if the bullying incident does not have an audience, a bully will often brag about their actions to friends and peers.
Bullies are often typecast as big brutes beating up skinny bespectacled kids. But the truth is, anyone can be a bully.
When asked why they bully others, youth told Boys & Girls Clubs of America:
These responses show that bullies don’t necessarily need to be bigger or stronger than their targets – their “power” can come from trying to be perceived as popular, influential, smart or athletic. However, oftentimes when a kid or teen instigates bullying it’s related to something else going on like:
Recognizing all forms of bullying is important because they all cause harm – not just to the bullied kid, but to the witnesses and bullies too.
Here are three ways youth commonly experience bullying from peers or adults in their life:
READ: How to Identify – and Combat – Bullying
At the heart of bullying are emotions – and just like math, science or reading – kids and teens can be taught to understand and practice emotional intelligence. Anti-bullying programs like WWE’s Be A STAR provide Club youth like Dejae with an education in emotional intelligence through hands-on activities, caring mentors and safe, inclusive spaces. At the Club, Dejae not only learned how to handle a bully as someone targeted, but as a teen ambassador of the program, she also supports younger kids in learning how to respond to bullying.
Youth today have a heartwarming desire to do good with 92% reporting to Boys & Girls Clubs of America wanting to help when they see someone having a problem. By taking the time to listen and learn from the young people we care about, we can empower them to act on their compassion and be safe and smart in putting a stop to bullying when they see it.
Learn more about how Boys & Girls Clubs of America is committed to the safety and well-being of millions of young people by creating safe, inclusive spaces and youth development programs designed to stop bullying with social-emotional skill building.