Bullying has been a problem in schools for many years. It can take many different forms and is carried out for various reasons. To gain a true understanding of bullying, it is important to examine not only the reasons for someone becoming a victim, but also the reasons for someone becoming a bully.
Bullying takes many forms. It can be physical, such as being beaten up or hurt. However, non-physical forms of bullying can be equally distressing. These can include “teasing, being threatened and name calling” (bullying).
A relatively new phenomena is bullying by mobile phone. This is a modern way of bullying as, even ten years ago, most children did not have their own mobile phones. However, as the Bully Online website states: “Mobile phones have become the new weapon of choice for bullies. With three-quarters of children now owning a mobile phone, the anonymity, sluggishness of telecommunications service providers, and the weakness of law provide bullies with the perfect means of taunting their target with little fear of being caught. Text messages provide complete anonymity” (Mobile). Methods of bullying via mobile phone can involve sending rude or threatening texts to a victim. Also, voicemails may have been left on the victims phone which are threatening or which are long periods of silence.
There are many reasons why someone may be a victim of bullying. Some of these reasons include religion, race, and sexuality. Other equally likely examples include a victim’s weight, clothes, or academic status. Obviously, there are many other examples. Many ‘reasons’ for bullying have stayed fairly constant over the years. However, some have become more common. Homophobic bullying is one such example. A child can be a victim of homophobic bullying, whether they are gay or not. This is partly due to the increase of using the word ‘gay’ as a derogatory term (Dye). It is frequently heard even amongst young primary school children, long before they even understand the meaning of the word. “Every generation has a word which they use as a term of offence,” says Sue Allen, chair of FFLAG (Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), “Today it is ‘gay’. Primary-age children use it to refer to anything that’s naff or abnormal. So, by the time they reach secondary school, they have a negative view of being gay” (Dye).
It seems that while some forms of bullying have been explicitly explained to children as wrong, homophobic bullying isn’t one such form. according to Stonewall’s 2007 School Report, which surveyed 1,145 LGB secondary school pupils, under a quarter of gay students have been informed that homophobic bullying is unacceptable in their school. Chris Gibbons, Senior Education Officer says, “Regardless of the lack of any deliberate intent, it likens being gay to something that’s bad, wrong or inferior. A school culture that permits casual use of homophobic language makes it all the easier for pupils to suffer homophonic name-calling and bullying” (Dye).
The underlying cause for homophobic bullying may well be prejudice against gay and lesbian people. Even young children, who do not know what homosexuality is, may partake in homophobic behaviour by this broad prejudice. Individual motivations for bullying are likely to be more complicated and, as is true in forms of bullying, may contain a want for power or affiliation. Some people gain pleasure from using holding power over others. Furthermore, a friendship group is likely to be strengthened if someone is on the outside of that group (Information). Another motivation could also be fear, as the word ‘homophobic’ suggests. This fear can be of the unknown, of difference, or it can be a fear which is based on the bully’s uncertainty regarding their own sexuality (Information).
In tackling the problem of bullying, it is important to understand the root of it, and who is more likely to become a bully or a victim than their peers. Research published by the American Psychological Association suggests that “children and adolescents who lack social problem-solving skills are more at risk of becoming bullies, victims or both than those who don't have these difficulties” (Science News). Furthermore, the research shows that young people having academic difficulties are even more likely to become bullies.
Lead author of the study, Clayton R. Cook, says, "A typical victim is likely to be aggressive, lack social skills, think negative thoughts, experience difficulties in solving social problems, come from negative family, school and community environments and be noticeably rejected and isolated by peers” (Science News). "A typical bully has trouble resolving problems with others and also has trouble academically," said Cook. "He or she usually has negative attitudes and beliefs about others, feels negatively toward himself/herself, comes from a family environment characterized by conflict and poor parenting, perceives school as negative and is negatively influenced by peers" (Science News)
Interesting, the typical bully-victim, which is an individual who is both bullied and is a bully, also appears to have negative attitudes and beliefs about himself/herself and others. The study found that he or she struggles with social interaction, has underdeveloped social problem-solving skills, and demonstrates a poor academic performance. Additionally, he or she is rejected by peers but, more importantly, is also destructively influenced by the peers with whom he or she does interact (Science News).
Bullying in schools is widespread and prevalent. There are many reasons for people becoming both bullies and victims of bullying. In order to understand the problem, an holistic attitude must be adopted in assessing each occurrence of bullying.
“Bullying at School.” Direct Gov. Web. 19 April. 2011.
“Information for Schools about Homophobic Bullying.” Anti-bullying. Web. 19 April. 2011.
“Mobile Phone and Cell Phone Bullying.” Bully Online. Web. 19 April. 2011.
Natalie Dye. “Homophobic Bullying.” Family Lives. Web. 19 April. 2011.
“Science News: Who Is Likely to Become a Bully, Victim or Both? New Research Shows
Poor Problem-Solving Increases Risk for All.” Science Daily. 9 July. 2010. Web. 19
April. 2011. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100708160937.htm