Bullying used to be something we associated with the occasional teasing of children in schools and playgrounds. However, this kind of bullying is the tip of the iceberg as far as the umbrella of bullying. In twenty-first-century society in Canada, we see and appreciate that bullying takes on many forms and happens in many places.
Types of bullying
Bullying in its most basic form is often social bullying in school. It involves making up nicknames, name-calling, excluding, and spreading fake rumors. As our lives have become so entwined with cyberspace and social media so too has the potential for cyberbullying. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and many other social media platforms are all places where cyberbullying thrives.
Many bullying victims are targeted on social media exclusively. Or these platforms make up part of the social bullying tactics of bullies in school where the victim is then targeted in the classroom. In boys more than girls, bullying can be physical and includes actual physical harm by kicking, hitting, and punching.
Bullying statistics in Canada
In addition to bullying taking place in schools, not all bullying ends as children become adults. We now have an appreciation that a significant amount of bullying happens to adults. It can take the form of social bullying in the workplace or cyberbullying online. Bullying is not occasional isolated incidents. Bullying rates highlight the severity of the issue:
- 47% of Canadian parents have at least one child that has been a victim of bullying
- Around one-third of the population has experienced bullying as a child.
- Around one-third of teenagers have been bullied recently
- And 40% or nearly half of Canadians are bullied in the workplace every week.
Bullying is a prevalent problem in our society. We hope to bring children up so that they can remember a wonderful childhood where they were loved and cherished. For many people, their overriding memories of being young are being miserable due to being bullied. Bullying is defined as acts of intentional harm repeated over time in a relationship where an imbalance of power exists. Whatever form the bullying takes whether it be physical punching, kicking, or hitting. Or verbal name-calling and insults, the victim can suffer degrees of harm. They may become depressed or suicidal or at the very least hurt and unhappy.
Problems associated with bullying
Bullying is associated with mental health problems including eating disorders and self-harm. Victims are also more likely to have low self-esteem and suffer because of this. Child victims affected may go on to suffer in adulthood and can typically become victims as adults. It’s an unpleasant cycle that can make a person’s life fearful and depressing. A victim may feel like life is not worth living. And some victims may even take their own life.
Similarly, child bullies may repeat their bullying behavior as adults and also suffer as a result of their unacceptable behavior. Bullies may go on to commit criminal offenses. As such their lives are also all the poorer for their behavior. Bullies may go on to engage in date violence, sexual harassment, spousal, child, and senior abuse. They may also engage in gang-related violence.
It seems that bullying is ingrained in our society. Some people naturally have behaviors that increase their chances of becoming a bully. Not being able to stand up for oneself can make a person at risk of being a victim. Being different in some way is also on a bully’s radar. We also know that bullies may come from dysfunctional homes. They might be victims of child abuse and copy unacceptable behavior.
How to prevent bullying
Programs are now available that give victims of bullying resources and advice. They also aim to stop bullying from taking place. Certainly, by targeting behavior in children it stands to reason that many future outcomes in adulthood could be avoided. Typically they are education and classroom-based. One program developed in 1994 aims to Bully-Proof Your School (BPYS). This aims to involve children in making their environment safer and free of bullies. Staff are trained and school-wide policies are developed to isolate bullying behaviors.
The Olweus Bully Prevention Program has been implemented in many schools globally. It aims to identify bullies and victims and increase supervision in known hotspots for bullying. Enforced rules are put in place against bullying. Targeting anti-social behavior in classrooms can involve individual groups. Sessions are split with children in at-risk groups of being bullied, children who passively watch bullying, and children who are at risk of or who have bullied. Class rules and the harm that bullying does are discussed. It is hoped that children can develop better empathy and adherence to a bullying free environment for all. This includes the individual child’s role in this goal.
Bullying Outlook in Canada
Canada has a reputation globally as being a nation of polite and gentle pacifists. So the statistics are somewhat of a surprise in what is deemed to be such a ‘nice’ society. While Canada is far from being a bullying-free society we are becoming more aware. Through awareness and programs, it is proven that bullying can be reduced. As the programs continue the greater progress will be made. And the aim of a relatively bully-free society may be achieved in years to come.