When it comes to understanding victims of bullying, it’s important to dispel some common myths. As a society, we have come to believe certain things about kids who are targeted by bullies. But in reality bullying has more to do with the bully than it has to do with some defect in the target. Here are some of the common myths that people believe about victims of bullying.
Myth 1: All victims of bullying are vulnerable, weak and nonassertive.
While it is true, some victims of bullying display vulnerability or are nonassertive this assumption is not always true. All kids are at risk for being bullied regardless of who they are. Even kids who are popular and well liked can be bullied. What’s more, kids can be bullied because they are gifted students, have special needs, struggle with food allergies and even because they excel at athletics. In fact, bullying in sports is relatively common. To view all victims of bullying as weak and vulnerable exacerbates the shame and embarrassment kids feel when they are bullied. It also increases the likelihood that they won’t tell an adult when they are being bullied.
Myth 2: Victims of bullying do something to deserve the bullying.
Victims of bullying do nothing actively to provoke their tormentors. Instead, bullying is always the choice of the bullies. And early intervention into their bullying behavior is the only way to address the issue. While helping victims of bullying build self-esteem, become assertive and make friends will help deter bullying, adults must be careful not to blame the victim for the bullying. Nor should they imply that if the victim was different somehow the bullying would not occur.
Myth 3: Victims of bullying tend to overreact and need to toughen up.
Most adults have a hard time understanding just how painful bullying can be. This is often referred to as an empathy gap. What’s more, they often believe that bullying is a rite of passage and that it will build character in kids. But research has shown that bullying can have serious consequences. In fact, all sorts of issues have been linked to bullying including depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and post-traumatic stress disorder. The best thing adults can do to help a victim of bullying is to help put an end to the bullying. They also should take steps to help the target overcome the bullying they experienced and to move on with their lives.
Myth 4: Victims of bullying always report bullying.
Parents often mistakenly believe that if their children were being bullied they would know it. But research has shown that kids rarely disclose what is happening to them even when they have excellent relationships with their parents. For this reason, parents and educators need to be aware of the signs of bullying and be prepared to step in at the first indication that something isn’t right. Allowing bullying to go on for too long can have lasting long-term effects.
Myth 5: Victims of bullying should retaliate against the bullies.
One popular thought among parents is to teach their kids how to fight back. While it is important for children to stand up for themselves and to learn how to be assertive, it is not a good idea to encourage them to retaliate in some way. Aside from the fact that fighting back usually only escalates the problem, research has shown that bully-victims, or kids that are both bullies and victims, suffer the steepest consequences of all victims of bullying. What’s more, they tend to be shunned by their peers more than pure bullies or pure targets. Encouraging your child to get even with a bully never helps the situation. Instead, teach your child how to be assertive and how to avoid bullies at school. Additionally, work with the school to put an end to the bullying.