Bullying in American schools has been a common problem for decades, but it gained momentum relatively recently. Although different definitions of the phenomenon exist, there is a certain consensus as to the major aspects of the problem and its primary peculiarities (Mishna and Van Wert 227). Bullying in the school setting can be referred to as “unwanted, aggressive behavior and a perceived or real power imbalance among youth” (Puhl et al. 95).
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This negative trend can take different forms and involve diverse groups including underprivileged groups. Contemporary society condemns such behaviors, which has led to the introduction of various policies, laws, and guidelines aimed at eliminating (or at least, diminishing) bullying (Puhl et al. 96). However, apart from the development of regulations and adherence to instructions, it is important to use the most effective strategies involving communities, educators, parents, students, and the media.
Types of Bullying and Its Impact
Different types of bullying in the educational sphere have been identified and analyzed. Researchers distinguish two major kinds of bullying that take place in the academic setting: direct and indirect. The former type includes such overt aggression as pushing, hitting, threatening, and insulting (Mishna and Van Wert 227). Indirect bullying can also appear in different forms, but exclusion is one of the most typical and most harmful practices.
Exclusion mainly aggravates the problem and leads to substantial adverse effects of even tragic outcomes. Cyberbullying emerged at the end of the 20th century, but the development of social media led to a considerable spread of this trend. Therefore, the channels through which young people can be victimized are quite diverse as students may be abused physically or verbally; they can be reached through social media.
As mentioned above different categories of students can be victims of bullying although some groups are more likely to be affected. For instance, younger children are more common victims as they are commonly bullied by both peers and older students (Mishna and Van Wert 228). Personal traits are often predictors of certain behaviors as shy and insecure youth as well as those having low self-esteem are more likely to become victimized.
Physical appearance and sexuality (including perceived sexual orientation) are also factors contributing to bullying. As far as bullies are concerned, some studies show that these people have quite low self-esteem while other researches indicate quite the opposite. At that, scholars agree that bullies tend to be physically stronger than their peers and can be impulsive (Mishna and Van Wert 228). It is also found that children who lack proper parenting are potential bullies or victims of bullying or both.
Existing Policies and Guidelines
Since bullying in US schools has received considerable attention from the public and is now regarded as a serious public health issue, various anti-bullying laws have been enacted. For instance, all American states (excluding Montana) have anti-bullying regulations (Puhl et al. 96). However, no federal laws prohibit bullying in the educational setting, which can contribute to the problem. Of course, the federal government allocates substantial funds to the development of anti-bullying programs and campaigns that have proved to be effective. The US government also pays much attention to media coverage of the existing measures as well as the development of proactive views on the matter.
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Nevertheless, the existence of state laws remains insufficient. One of the most pronounced weaknesses of the current situation is certain confusion regarding definitions and comprehensiveness of the existing regulations. For example, in some states, certain groups of typical victims are distinguished (Puhl et al. 96). However, many researchers and policymakers emphasize that it is harmful to include these characteristics in anti-bullying laws. They argue that it is much more effective to prohibit aggressive behaviors irrespective of the factors that might trigger them. It is clear that more effort should be invested and federal laws should be enacted in order to remove any confusion.
Apart from the wide coverage of the problem in the media, bullying is still common in American schools. Irrespective of the existing state laws and school policies, inappropriate behaviors are apparent, which makes it clear that legal measures alone will not suffice to solve the issue. Of course, they should be effective and functioning in all parts of the USA, but educators, students themselves, and communities can and should play a more active role in the process.
An illustration of the effective strategies that can be used is the case of Bay High School. A student of this school wrote a tweet about one of her classmates on Twitter (Kist et al. 41). During the night, she added other tweets concerning the rest of her peers, and her posts were rather brutal and abusive. The same night, another student started posting his own tweets that revealed positive and even admirable sides of the classmates that were abused.
More importantly, the student encouraged his peers to add tweets, which proved to be an effective strategy. Many students shared their positive commentaries concerning those who were mentioned in the offensive tweet. The incident did not lead to any negative consequences as young people managed to manage the conflict situation and never targeted the author of negative tweets although her name was soon revealed.
Obviously, various methods and strategies can be employed to address different types of bullying or prevent any incidence of this phenomenon. However, the community, educators, and students should collaborate effectively. It is pivotal to develop the corresponding culture that promotes empathy, support, and resilience to any external factors. Friendship and inclusion are critical for child development especially when it comes to adolescents (Mishna and Van Wert 228). Parental involvement in the academic life of their children is one of the factors contributing to the prevention of bullying in the educational setting. Finally, addressing every instance of bullying is essential, and adults should respond to each case accordingly.
To sum up, it is necessary to state that bullying in American schools is still a significant issue as thousands of students are affected, which has a negative influence on their future. Any person can be targeted although there are populations that are specifically vulnerable. Some triggers for bullies include age, physical appearance, and sexuality. Personal traits and inappropriate parenting often result in children’s victimization.
Although almost all states have anti-bullying laws, these regulations lack comprehensiveness and can be characterized by some flaws. It has been acknowledged that federal laws should be enacted in order to avoid confusion and violations. Importantly, parents, communities, educators, and students can interact to develop the culture that will make bullying impossible. It is clear that close collaboration and the use of effective communication platforms including social media can help in achieving this goal.
Kist, William, Kristen Srsen, and Beatriz Fontanive Bishop. “Social Media and “Kids Today”: A Counter-Narrative from a US High School.” The English Journal, vol. 104, no. 3, 2015, pp. 41-46.
Mishna, Faye, and Melissa Van Wert. “Bullying.” Handbook of Social Work Practice with Vulnerable and Resilient Populations, edited by Alex Gitterman, Columbia University Press, 2014, pp. 227-247.
Puhl, Rebecca M. et al. “Public Attitudes About Different Types of Anti-Bullying Laws: Results from a National Survey.” Journal of Public Health Policy, vol. 36, no. 1, 2014, pp. 95-109.