Dealing With Bullying

"Most organizations have a serial bully. It never ceases to amaze me how one person's divisive dysfunctional behavior can permeate the entire organization like a cancer." - Tim Field

When many people think about bullying, they generally think about children being mean or beating up on each other in a playground or at school. However, in the society we live in today, bullying is much more than what you might think, and it is also spreading throughout our society whether in schools, the workplace, or at home. In the paragraphs that follow, you are going to learn some specific information about bullying in terms of what it is, why people are bullied, who is receiving this type of treatment, and how this form of behavior can be prevented in schools, at work, or at home.

I'm including bullying in this book because oftentimes people who are struggling with their sexuality can harbor low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can make a person vulnerable and open to physical and/or emotional harm. Bullies pick up on this and take advantage of it. It's bad enough trying to cope with one issue, but to have it compounded by ignorant fools can bring an innocent victim to a breaking point. There are ways of coping and dealing with this very serious issue, so please read on.

WHAT IS BULLYING?

Quite honestly, bullying can take on a variety of different forms. In fact, some forms of bullying will incorporate a number of intimidation methods that include name-calling, physical threats, property destruction, defamation of character, psychological harassment, physical aggression against a person's body, and hostilities being leveled towards an individual for no specific reason. Although these are only some of the forms of bullying, in many cases they are the most damaging.

WHY ARE PEOPLE BULLIED?

In most cases, the people who are bullied are those who are innocent, nothing of a threat, easy to get along with, friends with a wide group of individuals, socially connected, well-kept, handsome, attractive, or what have you. Typically, if someone that is being a bully sees something that they envy or feel is a threat to their own person, they will typically take out their aggression and their abusive behavior on that particular individual. You'll find that in many cases the person being bullied will not understand why they have been chosen for this type of harassment in the first place.

WHY DO PEOPLE BULLY?

Although there have been a number of different case studies performed on the reasons why people are bullied, everything basically leads back to the individual carrying out that particular act. What studies have shown is that the individual will typically model what is being portrayed in their own home. In fact, many of the people that become bullies are being bullied themselves in some form or fashion. Most of the time, authority figures within the household will demonstrate a wide number of abusive behaviors. As a result, these behaviors get taught to almost everyone in the household.

Each individual that undergoes this type of abuse will typically try and take out their frustration and anger on someone else. Many of the people they choose to bully will have absolutely nothing to do with what have transpired in their household, and may simply remind them of something they dislike about the abusive authority figure, or something they lack themselves. Many of the people that end up being bullies are those that lack support and love from their parents or their household. In addition, you'll find a number of people that have turned out to be bullies have also been bullied themselves.

Much of this can be attributed to the lifestyle a person is living, whether at home or with friends they socialize with on a consistent basis. Other reasons for this type of behavior can be caused by what a person sees in school, in the media, in movies, and on television. Because of the social stresses that happen in everyday life, people can be confused by what they see, and feel that this is just the way it is. They end up modeling what it is they see, and someone else ends up suffering as a result.

HOW CAN A PERSON PREVENT BULLYING AT SCHOOL?

If a child is being bullied at school and the parent would like to do something about it, there are certain things that can be done to help prevent this type of behavior. Any parent will not want to send their child into an environment that can be abusive, violent, or explosive. So, in order to help prevent this type of behavior in a school where your child might attend, it'll be important to get involved with the policies and the policymakers at that location.

Parents need to ensure that their young children are going to a safe environment when they leave each day for school. This can be accomplished by identifying the policies that a particular school has in place. Most schools will have an anti-bullying policy. However, how that policy is enforced is another question. It'll be up to you as a parent to make sure that you understand what that policy is just in case your child comes home with an abrasion, a bloody nose, or their clothes have been ripped to shreds as a result of being bullied. By knowing what the policies are, you will be able to prevent bullying at the school in which your child attends.

HOW CAN A PERSON PREVENT BULLYING AT WORK?

Preventing bullying in the workplace can be done quite easily by following the steps below:

• Make sure you have identified the workplace bullying policy
• Seek the advice of a Human Resource Officer
• Keep a record of all occasions
• Talk to a counselor
• Use formal procedures such as law enforcement

HOW CAN A PERSON PREVENT BULLYING AT HOME?

If you are a parent trying to prevent bullying at home, it'll be important to learn as much as you can about the subject. You'll also need to provide an environment that doesn't condone this type of behavior. In addition, it'll be important to minimize situations where this type of behavior can be used. It'll also be important to educate your children as to what bullying is and why it is damaging for themselves as well as others. You want to let them know where this type of behavior leads, and how it could affect their lives as well as the lives of others around them.

Although there is no silver lining when it comes to bullying, there is satisfaction in knowing that it is completely avoidable. Children need to be taught that this type of behavior is unacceptable. Adults need to be taught that there is no place for bullying in the workplace. Schools need to be informed that this type of behavior is intolerable. As long as people believe they can get away with this type of behavior or harassment, they will continue to do the same thing over and over again. Once people become educated about the dangers involved, they will begin to change and find out there are other ways in which they can communicate.

CYBER BULLYING

Cyber Bullying has been in the news a lot of late. Many people are wondering how they can protect their children from cyber bullying. According to a survey carried out by the cyber bullying research centre, 20 percent of children aged 11-18 say they have been bullied online.

The consequences of cyber bullying can be awful, no matter what age you are. There have been many cases in the news where the victims of cyber bullying have committed suicide. Being the victim of a bullying campaign of any kind is a form of abuse and victims often feel lonely and isolated. It is important that you watch your kids for signs of cyber bullying. The earlier it is caught, the easier it is to deal with.

WHAT IS CYBER BULLYING?

While bullying itself has been around since the early stages of humanity, cyber bullying is a recent phenomenon that many people struggle to wrap their head around.

Bullying online can occur in many forms:

• Social Media Abuse: The most common form of bullying is for people to post nasty things to the person's social media account - whether it is Facebook, Twitter or other sites, the victim is often publicly humiliated by their peers. People feel safe behind their computer screens and the abuse hurled is often far more vicious than offline bullying.

• Impersonation: This is where the perpetrator pretends to be the victim online and posts as the victim. This allows the bully to say things the victim would never say.

SIGNS THAT YOUR CHILD IS BEING BULLIED:

Most teenagers don't talk to their parents so it is difficult to know what exactly is going on with your kids. As many of the recent high profile cases have shown, it is vitally important to find out if your child is being bullied online or offline. Here are some signs that your child may have been bullied online:

• Change in online habits: Is your child online all the time, or avoiding their phone and computer? A large increase or decrease in online activity can be a warning sign.

• Mood change: If your child is suddenly withdrawn or upset, particularly after texting or going online, then there is probably something going on.

• Account Shut Down: If your child shuts down a social media account out of the blue, then there may have been an issue with the account.

• Blocking Friends: If your child suddenly blocks email addresses or phone numbers, they may be the victim of bullying.

• Behavior: If your child acts out more than usual or suddenly becomes impatient or frustrated.

• Social media accounts: If you notice social media accounts in your child's name that do not appear to belong to your child.

WHAT PARENTS SHOULD DO ABOUT CYBER BULLYING:

• Talk to your child: Easier said than done with a teenager, but it must be done. Sit your child down and have a conversation. Do not corner them, but speak honestly and openly about what you suspect is going on. Ask the child for answers and try to work out a solution that you are both happy with. Ensure that you get the child's input or they will not feel empowered. Cyber bullying is a form of abuse and, depending how long it has been going on, the effect can be quite damaging. Ensure you talk about it without confrontation or blame, and make sure your child knows this is not their fault.

• Collect evidence: Once you are aware that cyber bullying has been going on, start to collect screen-grabs and printouts of the activities. This can be important if you have to get authorities involved later on. If you are not sure that cyber bullying is going on, you can use tools like key-loggers to monitor your child's activities online to be sure.

• Talk to the school: Many schools have protocols in place to deal with cyber bullying. Even if they don't, this is a good place to start to ensure that your child is not harassed when they are at school.

• Talk to the parents or guardian of the bullies: Confrontation is not the way to go here, so try to have a reasonable conversation, preferably showing evidence. If you find the parent or guardian unhelpful, politely excuse yourself.

• Talk to the authorities: If you cannot stop the bullying by talking to the school or parents, you will probably need to get the police involved. This will have to be left to your judgment and will be based on the severity of the bullying. Talking to the police is particularly important if there is a physical element to the threats or bullying itself.

• Keep talking to your kids: Continue the dialogue, listen to your kids and make an agreement about what is and isn't acceptable online. Make sure they know you are on their side at all times and they can talk to you about anything.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE BEING BULLIED:

If you are the victim of a bullying campaign, you may feel lonely and isolated. Nothing is further from the truth as there are many things you can do:

• Don't engage: There is absolutely no point in having a shouting match on the internet. If you engage with people who are looking to bully someone, you only make yourself more of a target.

• Let someone know: Talk to a trusted adult or friend. Sharing your problem will allow people who care about you to help you.

• Keep the messages: Store the messages in case you need them as evidence at a future time. In many countries, bullying and cyber-bullying is illegal. Even if you don't want to press charges now, it is important to give yourself the option at a later date.

Cyber bullying can be a very difficult thing to have to live with, particularly if you keep it to yourself. My most important piece of advice is to talk to someone about it. It's important to share our worries and problems with trusted family members, friends and people in authority who are in a position to help.

Ask yourself this question: What gives anybody the right to make my life a misery? And here's a question for bullies to ask themselves: What gives me the right to make another person's life a misery? The answer is: There is no answer, because this kind of thing shouldn't be allowed to happen in the first place. But in real life it does happen, and the above suggestions should empower people who are victims of bullying. Remember, people do care and are taking bullying more seriously because it is serious.

And finally, remember that someone who is willing to bully anyone else from the safety of a computer monitor is nothing but a coward. Do not let someone like that affect your emotional well being! Stand up for yourself! It's your basic human right. Take action and resolve the problem sooner rather than later.

PROTECTING YOURSELF ON SOCIAL MEDIA SITES

On the night of the 29th of October 1969, at the University of California, Charley Kline was sitting in front of the UCL's Sigma 7 host computer. By his side, Professor Leonard Kleinrock stood anxiously. At exactly 10.30pm, Kline reached out his hand towards the keyboard and struck the L key. A phone call was made to the Stanford Research Institute and a simple question was asked, "Do you see the L?" Stanford wasted no time in responding, "Yes, we see the L." The surge of joy felt by those present soon subsided when, a few seconds later, the system completely crashed. Although a bittersweet experience for those involved, the 29th of October 1969 has gone down in history as the day that the internet was born.

Over the following decades, key achievements such as the creation of MSG, the first all-inclusive email package by John Vittal in 1975 and the development of the domain name system in 1984 helped greatly in shaping what we recognize as the modern day World Wide Web.

When dial-up internet was first made widely available to the general public in 1990, this became the first generation to have access to the wonders of the internet. For the first time ever, from the comforts of our own homes, we could access a vast wealth of information that previous generations could never have even dreamed of.

Jump forward to the early 2000s and little known sites like Friendster, MySpace and Facebook appeared on the net. Over time, these sites would grow to have millions of members, and for the first time people would be sharing as much information as they were accessing. The age of social media was born.

If a stranger approached you on the street and asked you for some personal information, would you share it? Most people would answer 'no' to this question. But, without realizing it
millions of people every day share some of their most personal details with the whole world via the internet.

We all love receiving birthday wishes from our friends on Facebook and other social media sites, but the reality is that the majority of the people sending you their best wishes would not be aware that it even was your birthday if it wasn't for the fact that you have shared your birth date on your profile. It is always important to be aware of exactly how much information you are sharing at any given time.

Sure, you can go ahead and share your birth date. But is it really necessary to share the year of your birth? Is it necessary to share your cell phone number? Is it also necessary to share your full address? By sharing these simple things, you leave yourself vulnerable to the serious crime of identity fraud. Therefore, think before you share.

People broadcasting their current location and future travel plans via sites such as 4-Square and Facebook has become alarmingly popular. This is incredibly foolish for two important reasons. First, in the case that the broadcaster is a female, this gives a potential stalker the ability to know exactly where she will be and what time she will be there. Second, it gives burglars a great advantage over you. You might think that in the great scheme of things your profile is insignificant, but you never know who is scanning your profile for information at any given time. If you broadcast to the world that you are out of the house or planning a trip soon, you might as well be placing a billboard outside your home for every burglar to see stating it is empty. The same could equally be said for people who disclose information about their sexuality. It can leave the door open for hate mail or cyber bullying.

It's important to remember that what you post online has consequences in your offline life. The next time you have an important job interview, you will put all of your effort into looking your absolute best - from readying your finest suit to preening your hair to perfection. What will all of that effort be worth when, after your interview, your possible future employer searches your name on Google? Be honest and ask yourself: what will they find? Will they find a modest, respectable profile, or a profile full of pictures that could compromise your reputation?

You can have your fun, but don't allow anyone to tag photos of you that could be seen as reputation damaging. Facebook has a feature that allows you to forbid friends from tagging you in photos - it may be wise to activate this feature. This way, you can screen which photos of you are available to the public to make sure that they are the best possible pictures available.

Think before you type. We all get upset, and we all have fights with friends and acquaintances. Sometimes, after a big fight or after you have had your feelings greatly hurt, you might feel the need to get back at those who you feel have wronged you. It may seem that social media is your prime outlet, as you can spread a harmful rumor or spiteful messages in seconds. But, if you do, you will live with the fallout for the rest of your life.

Not only can tweeting or posting a malicious comment get you in even more trouble with the other party and their family and friends, you can also end up in serious legal proceedings for defamation of character depending on the seriousness of the rumor. The next time you have a fight, turn the other cheek and forget it; don't take it to the web. If you allow enough time to pass, these matters usually fade into insignificance.

Beware of shortened or dubious links, as curiosity did kill the cat! The next time you are online and you see a link in your news feed purporting to lead to a funny video or witty picture, think twice - it could lead to harmful malware. One famous example of malware comes from Twitter. You log onto your account and see you have received a new message from a friend. You open the message and the content is similar to this: "Omg I can't believe you got caught on video doing this!" There will be a link at the bottom of the message purporting to lead to an incriminating picture or video that seemingly features you. This is a classic malware trick, but many people still fall prey to this trap. If you do receive any odd messages from friends and you are not quite sure as to its credibility, why not call your friend and ask if they sent you anything?
Nowadays, it seems that no matter where you go you cannot escape social media and its effects. From people photographing their meals in restaurants to share on Instagram, tagging their current location on Facebook through their iPhone or posing in public for new profile pictures. Social media is here to stay and we have to get used to that. Keep in mind the points you have read above at all times when using social media and you will be safe.

COPING STRATEGIES

Below are a number of key strategies that you can use to help yourself, a friend or a family member. It only barely touches the subject, so I would encourage people to research the topic further through the internet, books and self-help groups. Remember, knowledge is power!

• Bullies thrive on the reaction they get from their victims. Although it is easier said than done, trying not to respond to any type of bullying will hopefully make the offender aware of how ignorant, foolish and dangerous his/her behavior is. By giving the bully the response they are looking for, it will only add fuel to the fire and could easily lead to an escalation of the problem.

• It is extremely difficult to ignore being physically bullied. Nobody has the right to abuse another person just because they feel like it. In actual fact, if a bully felt any emotion, they would realize how hurtful and damaging their behavior is. Believe it or not, they usually do know what it feels like because they are probably victims themselves. But this is no excuse whatsoever. In these circumstances, a person needs to get away from the situation and inform a higher authority.

• The reason why a bully or an abuser tells their victim not to inform a higher authority is because they are actually afraid of being exposed for what they really are. They make their victims feel guilty and ashamed when all the while the guilt and shame is on their own shoulders.

• Don't ever ignore a situation where bullying occurs. It needs to be stopped immediately or the situation will only get worse. There is always a higher authority that can put an end to a person's suffering. There is no shame in informing the authorities if you are being abused. You'd be amazed at how empowering it is to stand up for yourself! It's never easy, but in the long term it will add years to your life!

• Try to stay safe by standing near adults or groups of people. It's very difficult for an abuser to infiltrate a group of friends and try to single any one person out. Usually bullies only target people who are on their own. If you are not able to put yourself in this kind of situation, you must inform a higher authority. If you are not in a position where you can help yourself, you must tell others who are in a position to do so. Why should you be miserable just because some person thinks they have a right to abuse you? Nobody has that right.

• Unfortunately, people need to learn how to stand up to bullies. Tips like using humor or saying, "Stop!" directly and confidently are techniques that sometimes work and are at least worth a try. If these actions don't work, walking away is another option. There's no shame in this. Why should a person have to hang around and put up with this kind of treatment?

• Bullying is far from an individual matter. Bullying is a community matter. Think about this for a moment: We all live, work and play, generally speaking, within our own communities. Most of us go about our business and get on with our lives. So, as long as nobody is interfering with your life, the world is beautiful place, right? Wrong! You are only a moment away from being in the wrong place at the wrong time to becoming a victim yourself. If not you, it could easily be a family member or a friend. This is where the community spirit comes in. If communities get together and form committees and self-help groups geared at combating bullying, it will prevent immeasurable suffering. If people actually cared about the community they lived in, I've no doubt they would like it to be a just and peaceful one for everybody else.

• If you've learned anything, it's that the best coping strategy for bullying is to inform people in authority. There is always somebody who can help. Never feel alone. It's always hard to take that first step. But just taking that first difficult step can free you from a life of suffering. The more we stand up for ourselves, the less we give others the chance to take advantage of us.

Copyright Piaras O Cionnaoith 2013

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