One out of every five students reports being bullied during their time in school. This number is unsettlingly high, and if you yourself haven’t been a victim of bullying, you almost certainly know someone who has. Bullying is an unfortunate reality that too many people have had to face. We must take steps to end it, and that begins by teaching others how to deal with bullying.
Bullying typically begins because people are different from each other, be it how they dress or what interests them in their free time. As I wrote in Chapter 7, “Striking a Balance,” of my book, Dream Big!: How to Reach for Your Stars, “We are all unique individuals, with unique dreams and circumstances.” Unfortunately, these differences are often looked down on. We need to change this mindset – that differences are bad – because in reality, they should be celebrated! Our uniqueness fosters creativity, giving us the potential to change the world. By ending bullying, we can further maximize this potential and show others why their unique dreams are so valuable! Keep reading to learn how to deal with and prevent bullying.
Bullying can affect anyone, from kids at school to adults at work. There is no single type of person who bullies, and there’s no single type who gets bullied. Instead, there are countless different variables that influence the situation, and it is important that we come up with a definition of bullying that encompasses all of them.
What Is Bullying?
Bullying is defined as the repeated action or attempt to hurt or take advantage of someone, either verbally, emotionally, or physically. It typically involves a power dynamic in which someone is more vulnerable than the other, and the bully is seeking to dominate or intimidate. This can be as blatant as physical aggression or as hidden as mental manipulation. Either way, no matter the form bullying takes, it can have long-term consequences that affect every person differently.
How Common is Bullying?
Bullying is more common than you may think, especially among kids in school. According to StopBullying.gov, out of all students ages 12-18 nationwide, approximately 20% experience bullying. For those who experienced bullying during the school year, only 46% told an adult about the situation. This statistic, which shows that over half of bullying is not reported, suggests that the percentage of students who experience bullying may actually be much higher.
The frequency of bullying also depends on the type. The following chart shows the seven most common types of bullying students ages 12-18 face and how common each is.
What is Cyberbullying?
As technology has become increasingly popular over the years, and as people are spending more time online, a new form of bullying has emerged: cyberbullying. Cyberbullying occurs over digital devices when people send hateful words or create harmful content about someone else. In a 2019 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15.7% of high school students reported experiencing this kind of bullying within the last twelve months.
However, cyberbullying is especially hard to track and can have different consequences than bullying at work or in school. With computers and cell phones, we can constantly be in communication with others. This allows bullying to occur at any time and makes it much more difficult to avoid. Moreso, it can be harder to notice when someone is being cyberbullied. If you are not in the same internet circles or if you don’t have access to someone’s device, you may not see what’s happening. For this reason, bullies hidden behind a screen can feel more invincible.
Why Do People Bully?
In order to put an end to bullying, we first need to understand why people do it. Understanding the causes can give us insights into what societal issues need to be addressed if we want to make a change. The following are six commons reasons why people have admitted to bullying someone else:
- Dealing with stress or other personal issues
- Having poor self-esteem
- Having poor relationships
- Seeking control/power
- Wanting payback
- Having prejudices
Beyond these things, taught aggression and taught social dynamics are also influential factors. What we learn at a young age influences our relationships as we grow older. If we’re taught that differences are bad, we’ll become hateful of people who may be different than we are in some ways. Instead, we should be teaching that being unique is actually a good thing! When we celebrate each other’s individuality, we’ll make the world a brighter place.
Changing our mindset is a long-term solution to bullying; it can’t happen overnight. Nonetheless, there are different things you can do today to deal with bullying in your life or help someone you know that may be a victim.
How to Deal With Bullying
If you are a victim of bullying, know that it doesn’t define you, nor is it a reflection of your self-worth. You don’t deserve to be bullied, and there are steps you can take to help deal with the situations you are facing. One way is to familiarize yourself with the anti-bullying laws in your state, which you can find using this chart. However, laws aren’t the only way you can protect yourself. Here are five more things you can do to deal with bullying.
Surround Yourself With Supportive People
Remember: you don’t need to deal with bullying alone! There are people out there who care about you and want to help. Surround yourself with these people. From friends and family to teachers and co-workers, these are the people who will stand up for you and support you when you need it. They’ll remind you of your worth and give you a boost of self-confidence so you can overcome difficult situations as they arise. Bullying can get you down and make you question your opinion of yourself, but when you’re surrounded by people who make you feel your best, it’s that much easier to get back up!
Talk to Someone You Trust
It’s important to have someone in your life that you trust and feel comfortable talking to. While it can be, this doesn’t necessarily have to be an adult, and they don’t necessarily have to get involved with the situation. They just need to be someone you feel safe and secure talking with. This could be any trusted person such as a friend, family member, or even a teacher.
However, if you feel comfortable, you can definitely have an outside person get involved! This can be a helpful way to put an end to things and it takes the pressure of confronting your bully off of you.
Practice Boosting Your Self Esteem
Bullies tend to look for vulnerability in an effort to feel more powerful than others. This means that the more confident you appear, the less a bully will seek you out. This could look like anything from the way you hold yourself to how you respond to harmful situations. If bullies see their actions don’t have an effect on you, they’ll see no purpose in bullying you further.
Prioritize Your Safety
If you are a victim of bullying, it is important that you prioritize your safety! Every situation is different. Sometimes, it may be best to walk away and not respond to the bully. Other times, this may provoke them and make the situation worse.
If you ever feel your safety is at risk, whether physically or emotionally, tell someone you trust and ask others to get involved. While this may seem scary, getting others involved can put an end to the situation and keep you safe so that you can get back to doing the things you love.
If your school is not getting involved in harassment based on sex, race, color, national origin, disability, or religion, you can try the following resources:
- School superintendent
- U.S. Department of Education: Office for Civil Rights
- U.S. Department of Justice: Civil Rights Division
If you’re feeling hopeless, helpless, or thinking of suicide, consider the following for confidential 24 hours a day, 7 days a week help:
- Call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
- Chat with Lifeline
- Visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- For Spanish Speakers:
- Call 1-888-628-9454
- Visit Ayuda en Español: Lifeline
- For deaf or hard of hearing:
- Call 1-800-799-4889
No matter who you are, no matter what you are experiencing, there are resources available to help you. You don’t deserve to be bullied. You have so much to offer the world, and your individuality deserves to be celebrated! Remember to take care of yourself, and know that you have a community of support cheering you on!
Let’s End Bullying Today
When we all come together, we can put an end to bullying! Everyone has a unique story, which means that everyone has something to bring to the table. By celebrating our differences and valuing our creativity, we can innovate change and build a brighter future for everyone.
If you want to learn more about the importance of individuality and how to change the world, be sure to check out my book, Dream Big!: How to Reach for Your Stars. Dream Big! is my guide to all things dreaming. With anecdotes, advice, and interactive activities, it will help you turn your dreams into reality so that you can make a difference in your community today!