Metropolitan State University journalist and novelist, Jaclyn Best, reveals why this phenomenon should not be explained away as “kids just being kids”.
Rebecca Ann Sedwick was only 12 years old when she committed suicide on Sept. 9, 2013. It was only after she jumped from a platform at an abandoned cement plant in Lakeland, Fla. that people started to pay attention.
It was a different story for her mother, however. Sedwick’s mother, Tricia Norman, knew of the daily torments her daughter faced and did everything in her power to help. Norman went through the rigmarole of speaking with school officials for many months to no avail. The bullying continued. Eventually, Norman was forced to pull her daughter out of school temporarily. She took her daughter’s phone away and even shut down her Facebook account but in the following months, Sedwick began to cut herself. Instead of verbal and physical abuse that a child would usually face in school, Sedwick experienced a different kind of bullying: cyber-bullying. She received constant hateful messages from various social networks, including ask.fm. It was only a few short months later that she would decide to take her own life.
Over the past several years, many pre-teens as well as teens have been driven to commit suicide because of bullying. Roughly 30 percent of teenagers in America are involved in bullying, whether they are the victims or not. Eleven percent reported that they are the focus of bullies; while 6 percent reported that they are the bully and are bullied themselves. Boys are more prone to being bullied but girls are also very likely to be bullied. Boys also tend to engage in physical violence, whereas girls tend to harass others verbally.
What may come as a surprise to many people is that there are four different types of bullying:
- Physical Bullying: This involves mostly hitting, kicking or pushing. It can also involve stealing or ruining one’s belongings and making someone do something against their wishes.
- Verbal Bullying: The main characteristics involve name-calling, teasing, taunting and insulting others.
- Emotional Bullying: This type of bullying is harder to distinguish. Emotional bullying involves trying to isolate someone, making them feel completely alone. Sometimes several bullies torment the victim, as opposed to just one.
- Cyber-Bullying: Sometimes known as electronic bullying, those experiencing this are typically ostracized through social media, text messages, instant messaging and the like.
There are many warning signs that your child may be bullied at school: their schoolwork worsens, they have constant nightmares, they are moody or angry consistently or they disengage from their friends and daily activities. If your child suffers from any of these signs, there are steps you can take to help your son or daughter overcome bullying. The first most important step is to sit down with your child and talk to them about what may be going on. If you find your teen is being harassed, perhaps the most crucial step a parent can take is to speak with counselors, teachers or coaches about the problem. People in these positions will also have the authority to put a stop to the bullying permanently. Your child should also know that he/she is not alone and will always have someone to confide in at school.
Many teens repeatedly ask, “Why me?” whenever they are the target of bullies. These teens need not blame themselves for the actions of their tormentor(s). Bullies typically persecute their victims because of jealousy, the desire to be infamous or because they crave power. Sometimes, they are bullied themselves and want to escape the problems of their own life. Whatever the case may be, those who are bullied are not at fault. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”