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Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Misconceptions about bullying have been rampant for decades. The "Self-Esteem Movement" that occurred during the 1980s helped to usher in many of the misconceptions-- As daytime talk shows fueled the notion that if youth had higher levels of self-esteem, bullying would not exist. Well, current research begs to differ. If we are truly going to address bullying, we must understand what it is and what it is not. Highlighted below are five of the most common myths about bullying.
1. Bullies are rejected by their peers and do not have friends
A common misconception is that bullies are not well-liked and lack in social networking. But, research shows that many bullies are held in high regard at school and have a lot of friends. Although some young people may befriend a bully in an effort to not become the target, many bullies are popular among schoolmates who perceive them as "cool." Some youth may admire the bully's "toughness" and may try to imitate it.
2. Bullies have low self-esteem
Just as it has been incorrectly assumed that bullies are disliked by their peers, there is a common belief that they have low self-esteem. That myth has its roots in the widely accepted view that people who bully others act that way due to an underlying social or emotional issue. But, there is little evidence to support this. To the contrary, most studies indicate that youth who bully others esteem themselves very highly. So, focusing on self-esteem may not fully address the issue of bullying.
3. Being a victim builds character
Another myth about bullying is that it is a normal part of growing up, and that surviving being bullying helps to build character. It is NOT! There is nothing "normal" about it. Research findings clearly show that being bullied increases the chances that children will become more withdrawn and isolated as a result of bullying.
4. Many childhood victims of bullying become violent as teens
While it is true that the majority of school shootings have involved bullying as an underlying factor, most victims of bullying do not lash out violently. Bullying victims are more likely to withdraw, suffer in silence, and/or turn their anger inward, rather than outward.
5. Bullying involves only perpetrators and victims
Bullying is not a problem limited to the bully and victim. Many bullying situations involve other peers engaging in indirect bullying, reinforcing the bullying, or as witnesses/bystanders. Everyone must be educated, and more importantly, empowered to speak up and act against bullying. Everyone has a role to play in helping to address and eradicate a problem that is negatively impacting the lives of so many young people.
Understanding that facts versus the myths about bullying is an important first step for prevention and intervention.
Source: American Psychological Association (www.apa.org)