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Bullying is No Longer Confined to Schools. What Are We Doing About It?

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The incidence of bullying on school premises and their carry over effect in cyberspace has become a serious problem with tragic consequences for many students. Existing school policy across North America has failed to address the issue effectively, as evidenced by continued reports of bullying. There is hence a need to research and address the incidence of bullying at different stages of a child's education. Both the bully and the victim need to be educated from the very start of their academic career on how to behave in socially responsible ways. The Boyer's model is a suitable response for this purpose. It helps children discover new information about their experiences at school. What they learn can then be integrated into classroom activities. They would also learn to apply newly acquired information to the real world.

Thus far the approach to bullying in American schools has been reactive rather than pro-active. However, schools need to establish policies and measures that will prevent and reduce the incidence of bullying in schools and greatly diminish its effects even after such incidents occur.

For this, it is necessary to take a fresh look at the dynamics, causes and factors that lead to bullying in schools at the elementary and secondary school level. The issues at each stage of a child's educational growth are different. Therefore it is important to divide the issue according to elementary and secondary school situations.

The existing measures and policies in American schools should be researched with a view to providing insights to modify and improve them. Incidents of bullying in the United States and how school boards in that country have dealt with the issue should be examined.

Specifically, researchers must focus on the following issues: Who are prime targets of bullying? Which children are most vulnerable to the phenomenon of bullying.

Bullying is defined as repeated aggression among school-aged children toward other children that may include threats, the spread of rumours, physical attacks, verbal attacks and ostracizing. Kids are affected by bullying in three ways. They bully, are bullied, or witness it. It is important to understand the different roles of children in order to fully comprehend the effects of bullying on children.

There are three different types of bullying. These include verbal, social, and physical bullying. Verbal bullying includes teasing, name calling, sexual remarks, taunting or threats. Social bullying involves hurting someone's reputation or relationship. This includes ostracizing children, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumours about someone or embarrassing someone on purpose. Physical bullying involves hurting a person's body or belongings. This includes hitting, kicking, spitting, pinching or breaking someone's things. This definition of bullying may be expanded upon further research.

With the above in mind, any research should examine the effectiveness of the following solutions:

Empowering the bullied: Children must be taught to repel the taunts and slights of bullies. Bullies choose their victims based on perceptions of weakness or strength in their victims. They understand that some children ignore their taunts while others are overwhelmed by these. The latter is precisely the reward bullies seek.

School policy: Based on the findings of the research, comprehensive recommendations should be made to be implemented by individual schools as well as school boards.

With the growing use of cyber space, bullying is no longer confined to school premises. The effects of school taunting and how it transforms into bullying outside of school also be addressed. Canada has recently enacted new legislation on cyber bullying. Further research is needed to determine if the same type of legislation can be deemed effective in the United States.
It is also important to determine when bullying becomes a crime. The law must be studied once again to determine at what point the phenomenon of bullying crosses over to criminal activity. The law must be revisited to tighten measures against such conduct.

The role of parents and caregivers in a bullying situation must be discussed and how parental involvement can either allay or exacerbate a situation. More meaningful parental involvement should be investigated as a possible solution to bullying.

This blog was co-authored by Dr Saman Hassan, Faculty University of Phoenix.

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