Today’s bullying bears little resemblance to the taunting and teasing that most parents were subjected to during their own childhood years. The modern bully wears many faces, and has an unprecedented level of access to the lives of those they hurt. Here are seven forms of bullying that today’s children are exposed to on a regular basis.
- Cyber-Bullying – Bullies are able to take their insults, threats and hurtful words to a very public and thoroughly humiliating new level through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Status updates make it easy for an entire social group to view and even comment on cruelty, while more personal threats can be sent through private messaging. Blogging platforms can also be used to mount full-scale smear campaigns, making it almost impossible for victims to face their peers.
- “Frenemies” – While the word “frenemy,” a portmanteau of the words “friend” and “enemy,” can be traced back to a 1953 Nevada State Journal article, the concept is intimately familiar to modern tweens and teens. Girls in particular have started to accept backhanded compliments and blatant rivalry as traits of their associates. When more assertive girls use the force of their personality and the threat of revoked social standing to coerce other members of their peer group into doing or saying things against their will, it is absolutely a form of bullying and should be treated as such.
- Bullying By Authority Figures – Typically, bullying is considered to fall in the realm of children and their peer group. As a result, taunts, insults and derogatory comments made by mean-spirited teachers or overzealous athletic coaches typically go unchallenged. Taught to obey authority figures, meek and mild-mannered children may never report this behavior for fear of retribution or punishment.
- Physical Harassment – There’s nothing new about physical bullying; stronger kids have been known to lord their prowess over smaller peers since the beginning of time. Tougher punishments and penalties have simply forced these bullies to get more creative when doling out their abuse, rather than curtailing it.
- Exclusion and Ostracism – Teachers and counselors with good intentions can make every effort to stamp out physical and verbal harassment, but their hands are tied when it comes to exclusion. Children and adolescents simply can’t be forced to associate with someone they’ve deemed an outcast, and this ostracism can be more painful for the victims than physical punches and kicks.
- Verbal Harassment – Name-calling, teasing and making fun of a child’s appearance, wardrobe or any other area of perceived inferiority might have crept over into social media and text message wars, but that hasn’t diminished its face-to-face value. Though the old adage about sticks and stones makes for a catchy rhyme, it does little to comfort youngsters that are mercilessly taunted for one “failing” or another.
- Blackmail – When every tween and teen carries a phone that doubles as a camera, snapping photos that double as blackmail material is the work of a moment. The release, or even the mere threat of release, of an embarrassing picture can send kids into a panic; kids who willfully inflict this torment on a peer are a new breed of bully.
Shame and fear of revenge can keep children from telling even a trusted adult about what they’re suffering through, leaving them feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of shouldering the burden alone. Because children are so often reluctant to discuss bullying, parents and caregivers should be on the lookout for signs of depression, isolation and agitation, which can be indicators of emotional turmoil and distress.