“Sorry mom and dad, I love you” (CBS Los Angeles, 2017). Those were the final words of 13-year-old Rosalie Avila, who took her life after persistently being bullied about her appearance in school. One can only imagine how her loved ones felt or what they did to cope with her death. Rosalie is one of “85 percent of girls and 80 percent of boys who report experiencing some form of harassment” (Feldman 2017, p. 339) or bullying in school. Bullying can be defined as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). Unpopular kids or kids with low self-esteem or low social status/class, are often the ones picked on by the bullies. It is a ruthless act. Not only does it affect the victims, it also affects their families, friends and loved ones. The purpose of this paper is to address the different forms of bullying, how it affects the victims involved, and what could be done to stop people who repetitively harm or intimidate their peers or vulnerable kids.
Bullying can occur in several ways, some more aggressive than others. Bullying and/or victimization could be physical or direct. This form of bullying involves physically hurting someone’s body or property. This includes “kicking, punching, spitting, or breaking someone’s property” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). This form of bullying is often carried out by bullies who are bigger, stronger or more popular than their victims. Victims are often targeted in the hallways, locker rooms, toilets etc. Verbal bullying, another form of bullying, comprises of “name-calling, insults, teasing, intimidation homophobic or racist remarks, or verbal abuse” (National Center Against Bullying, 2018). These are very common in schools, the workplace, and in public places in general. With the rise of the internet nowadays, bullies have found a way to communicate or target people online. Even though certain apps or websites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube have been made to facilitate communication or connect with the world, bullies use that as an opportunity to cyberbully. Cyberbullying occurs when “electronic tools are used to taunt, insult, threaten, harass and/or intimidate a peer” (Yang, A., & Salmivalli, C., 2013, p. 724-725). Bullies comment under individuals’ pictures or videos saying foul things such as ‘go kill yourself’, ‘you’re ugly’ or ‘drink bleach’. One might wonder why bullies do what they do or say what they say. There could be a variety of reasons. It could be a problem of low self-esteem. When they feel bad about themselves or their insecurities, they transfer that insecurity on someone else. It could also be because they are angry or frustrated with the family affairs, and are looking to take things out on someone. It might be peer pressure, trying to fit in or being influenced by friends. It might be to impress their circle of friends. “Whatever motivates someone to bully another person, their justification offers little comfort to those affected” (BullyingUK, n.d.).
There are examples of bullying cases that have shocked the world. The stories of these victims went viral and brought more awareness of bullying in schools. The story of Amanda Todd, for example, was one that touched the hearts of many. In a YouTube video she left behind, Amanda told her story using flashcards. She met a stranger online who flattered her. Upon his request, she flashed her breasts and he took pictures of it. He began haunting her, telling her to put up a show or he would send it to everyone she knew. When she refused, he sent it to all everyone at her school and family. Amanda was then bullied by her peers, told to die on several occasions, was physically assaulted and cyberbullied. Amanda was among the 28% of U.S. students (grades 6-12) who experienced bullying. “Every day I think why am I still here?… I have nobody, I need someone” said Amada, in her video. “In her short life, Todd had already learned that notoriety had a dark side. A certain kind of fame had already found her, and with it came a certain kind of life she plainly convinced herself that she couldn’t escape” (Dean, 2012).
Stories like that of Amanda Todd and Rosalie Avila show just how much bullying can affect the life of an individual. Unfortunately, suicide is not the only effect bullying has on victims. They could suffer from other short or long-term consequences. Examples of short-term effects may include; “social isolation, changes in eating habits, low self-esteem, symptoms of anxiety and depression, high risk of illness and psychosomatic symptoms”, while long-term effects could include “chronic depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse etc.” (“Short Term and Long Term Effects of Bullying: Psychological & Societal”, n.d.). Knowing that bullying has a lot of negative effects, what can we do as a society to eradicate bullying in our schools, the workplace, and in our homes? Preventing or stopping bullying is all about “creating a safe environment where children can thrive, socially and academically, without being afraid” (American Psychological Association, n.d.). To do that, parents, teachers, and students need to work together.
It all starts at home with the parents. Parents need to be able to recognize signs of bullying. If a child refuses to go to school, has nightmares or shows signs of depression, parents should be willing to have discussions and provide strategies on how to handle being bullied. They also need to set good examples at home and create a bully-free zone. If a child feels neglected or abused at home, they are more likely to lash out that anger and frustration on someone else. Technological devices should be monitored. Phones, laptops, or any other devices should have a certain website or app restriction program that will not enable cyberbullying. When children leave their homes and go to school, they are in the hands of the teachers and school administration. School is their second home. This is why it plays a major role in preventing bullying because the majority of bullying cases occur on school campuses.
The school administration should start by incorporating bullying into their curriculum. Doing this will teach the children what to do and how to intervene during an attack on someone. They also need to create a safe learning environment and should be strict on the consequences of bullying. Reporting cases to the school and to the parents also help because “only about 20 to 30 percent of students who are bullied notify adults…” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). Teachers need to ensure that the majority of students who report bullying to the admiration contact parents and let them know. While teachers might be the secondary care-takers, students need to step in and help avoid bullying situations. “70.6 percent of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). This is why it is important for them to learn to always intercede on behalf of a victim when they see them being bullied. “When bystanders intervene, bullying stops 57 percent of the time within 10 seconds” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). Intervening is a very effective strategy and we should encourage more students to take initiative and intervene in bullying circumstances whether they are friends or not.
Bullying is a serious issue affecting many kids all over the world. Anyone who witnesses unwanted, aggressive or excessive use of force toward someone should step in and help. Bullying not only affects its victims but also their families and friends. The stories of Amada and Rosalie are perfect examples showing us how important it is to take bullying very seriously and do whatever it takes to prevent or stop it. Parents should set good examples at home, the school administration should implement strict laws and consequences while peers should intervene on site. If Parents, teachers, and students all work together, schools may be a bully-free zone and a safe learning environments for their kids.
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