7 Myths About Bullying

Nov 15, 2016

Bullying is just as pervasive in child and teen culture now as it ever was before. Just because it’s always been around, however, doesn’t mean it should be; nor does it mean that the most common ideas about bullying—It’s just kids being kids; I would know if my kid was a bully—hold true.

Quite the contrary, many of the most widely known “facts” about bullying are actually myths. With 22 percent of students (one in every four) reporting being bullied throughout the school year, it’s important that parents, teachers, students and school administrators get the details straight.

Here are the top seven myths that are commonly believed to be true—but aren’t.

Myth #1: Cyberbullying isn’t as bad as physical bullying.
This myth is outright wrong—in fact, cyberbullying can be even more detrimental than physical bullying because there’s more social isolation involved. What’s more, this new form of bullying has become the norm for many teenagers: 52 percent of teenagers have been victims of cyberbullying, and 24 percent have experienced repeated bullying via cellphone or Internet.

Cyberbullying has been linked to teen suicide and child and teen depression, making it an important facet of your children’s lives that can’t be ignored. Keep lines of communication open with your kids and make sure to about their lives online.

Because kids often keep bullying to themselves, sometimes talking to them isn’t enough. Keep your eyes open to pick up on potential cues that might mean they’re being bullied. Here are a few signs that might indicate cyber bullying is happening:

  • Becomes withdrawn or shy
  • Stops using the computer suddenly
  • Changes eating, sleeping or social habits
  • Skips school or there’s a drop in grades
  • Shows signs of aggression, anxiety or depression

Myth #2: Victims aren’t bullies; Bullies aren’t victims.
Often times, bullies are bullied at home by siblings, parents or other family members, and vice versa. This flips the idea that bullies are bullies and victims are victims on its head, which is what we traditionally believe.

Because of this, it’s important to create an open environment when dealing with bullies at school. Abuse at home is a serious matter, and bullying could be the first sign that it’s going on when bruises or other signs aren’t apparent or visible.

Myth #3: Bullies are just struggling with self-esteem.
While this is the case for some bullies, many pick on others because they realize it helps keep them maintain a certain social stature, gaining more attention and a wider “circle of power” at school. This is an important myth to address among school staff, counselors and parents because it determines how you manage that bully. If they have low self-esteem, they’ll have different needs than someone who is already confident and well liked around school.

Myth #4: Bullying isn’t a big deal; it’s just kids being kids.
Previously stated statistics about the effects of cyberbullying (which are similar to the affects of in-person bullying) remind you that this myth isn’t true. Kids are not inherently born with aggression or meanness. It’s something that’s learned, whether from someone else or as a means of coping with other issues.

Taking a stand against bullying at school and in the house is critical. A no-tolerance policy should be put in place to deter kids from bullying on and offline. Here are a few ideas for creating this policy, or updating one that’s already in place:

  • Elect an anti-bully ambassador; this should be an adult that students feel comfortable talking to. This may increase the number of students who report being bullied.
  • Have a specific procedure for speaking with the bully and the victim along with standard forms for recording every detail. This will be important when dealing with future issues with the same students.
  • Don’t be hostile with the bully. As stated above, this may be a warning sign of potential abuse within the school or at home. Be open and have a candid conversation, picking up on signs of what may be causing the bully to act out.

Myth #5: If your child is bullied, you should call the bully’s parents.
If the bullying happened at school, the first thing you should do is bring it to the school’s anti-bully ambassador or another administrator. They will be the ones to address the issue with the bully and the bully’s parents. The school likely has a process in place for handling this, both on the victim and bully side, so it’s important you let them go through those steps.

Request a face-to-face meeting with the administrator who’s dealing with the issue and follow-up immediately after and if issues arise again.

Myth #6: Bullying is easy to see.
Quite the contrary, both the bully and victim are likely to keep the events to themselves; especially the bully who wants to avoid getting in trouble. Often, bullies are smart, manipulative and talented. They know to strike when adults aren’t around, and are often the students that are kind and charming to teachers and other adults. Arm yourself with a parental control software that will send you alerts when cyberbullying threats or inappropriate content is detected.

Myth #7: Offline bullying always involves physical harm.
The common picture of a bully is one that includes punching, hitting, and pushing against lockers. However, that’s not the only form of bullying that can occur. Emotional and mental abuse is just as common, often referred to as verbal bullying. This may take the form of name-calling, threatening, and rumor spreading.

This type of bullying needs to be handled just as every other incident, with a procedure that addresses issues with the bully, victim and both sets of parents.