Bullying and being bullied have become a part of life for a considerable proportion of American high school children, according to the largest study ever which examined attitudes and conduct in the USA. The study, created by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, reports that 47% of high school kids said that they were bullied to the point of becoming “seriously upset” over the last 12 months, while 50% admitted to bullying somebody. 43,321 schoolchildren responded to the survey. According to the Institute, their findings have a margin of error of no more than one percent.

Michael Josephson, the Institute’s founder said:

If the saying, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never harm me’ was ever true, it certainly is not so today. Insults, name calling, relentless teasing, and malicious gossip often inflict deep and enduring pain,” he added. “It’s not only the prevalence of bullying behavior and victimization that’s troublesome.

The Internet has intensified the injury. What’s posted on the Internet is permanent, and it spreads like a virus – there is no refuge. The difference between the impact of bullying today versus 20 years ago is the difference between getting into a fist fight and using a gun.

Highlighted in the report are the following details regarding high school pupils in the USA:

  • 33% believe that their school has a serious violence problem
  • 24% report not feeling very safe at their school
  • 52% say that anger led them to strike somebody
  • 10% admit to taking a weapon to school at least once during the previous year
  • 16% say they were drunk while at school

Josephson said:

The combination of bullying, a penchant toward violence when one is angry, the availability of weapons, and the possibility of intoxication at school increases significantly the likelihood of retaliatory violence.

There are three basic types of bullying – physical, verbal and emotional. It often involves subtle methods of coercion, such as psychological manipulation. There are various definitions of bullying. In some US states bullying is illegal, while the UK has no current definition of it.

Dan Olweus, a Norwegian researcher defined bullying as:

(when a person is) exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons. (negative action is) when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways.

Bullying may include:

  • verbal abuse
  • written abuse
  • physical abuse
  • exclusion from activities
  • exclusion from social situations
  • coercion
  • extortion

The act of bullying can be caused by several factors, such as a reaction to being bullied, jealousy, a way of seeming tough, or a means of gaining attention and/or popularity. According to the USA National Center for Education Statistics, bullying can be broken down into:

  • Direct bullying – which involves physical aggressions, for example poking, slapping, punching, kicking, shoving, stabbing, pulling hair, scratching, pinching, tripping, etc.
  • Indirect bullying (social aggression) – which involves threatening somebody into isolation by spreading gossip, bullying those who attempt to socialize with the victim, criticizing his/her clothes, race, disability, etc. Indirect bullying may also include the silent treatment (UK: putting somebody on Coventry), spreading lies, rumors, (false) gossip, giggling and laughing at the target person, mocking, and using words known to remind the victim of past events.

The effects of bullying on the victim can be serious, devastating, and sometimes fatal. The victim may suffer from extreme loneliness, anxiety, low-self esteem, and depression. There may be a higher susceptibility to illnesses. UK authorities estimate that between 15 and 25 British children commit suicide each year because of bullying.

Source: Josephson Institute

Written by Christian Nordqvist