National Bullying Prevention Month and understanding bullying’s core factors
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – October is National Bullying Prevention Month and there are steps one can take to understand what bullying is and what it takes to combat it.
Experts say we can begin to document bullying in kids as young as three years old. Pre-schoolers practice bullying and continue it into elementary and high school.
"Physical bullying usually starts to go down in middle-elementary school years so by late-elementary school years, both boys and girls moved to what’s almost 100% social aggression," Martin Jones, an educational psychology expert, explained.
Examples of social aggression include rumors, gossiping and intentional exclusion which many older kids practice by making it clear someone isn’t invited to a social outing.
"Bullying is different than just being aggressive," Jones said. "Most people don’t realize that bullying is actually long term, this is going to happen multiple times and it’s done with an intent to harm. Bullying is not an accident, it’s actually done to gain social status."
The bruising and the attacks might go away but feeling ostracized or left out can stick around for decades.
The bullying can often be caused by social status and influence.
"What do you get with status? You get to influence all of your friends. You get to get your teachers to potentially like you more. People admire you," Jones described. "Bullies are disliked, usually, but we usually also make them head of the football team. You get social status. You get admiration. Oddly enough, people dislike you but people will listen to you."
The best way to stop bullying? Don’t submit to being a victim.
"Number one, get a friend. You are less likely to be bullied if you have a friend near you. Number two, stand up for yourself. Don’t let yourself be a victim. If somebody hits you. defend yourself. If somebody makes fun of you, call them out for making fun of you. And then three is you tell a teacher or a parent," Jones said.
Bystanders can and should also help by speaking up.
"If you want to say something directly but you don’t want to be as confrontational, or if it’s one of those subtle things that are harder to point out a simple like oh I don’t get it to a joke that someone’s made that’s offensive, forcing them to explain that joke by just like, oh wait Why is that funny? That could be enough," Michelle Dugan, with the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center, said.