Whereas bullying can and indeed does happen at any age, research shows that it is most prevalent among students and especially teenagers. This is a very vulnerable age during which the thrill of socialising, learning and making novel experiences may be turned into hellish years of internal turmoil. Worse still, the long-term adverse effects of bullying can drag on into adulthood, leaving the victims scarred in their outlook on life and having a lasting effect on their life choices.
This insidious behaviour is a disturbing and worrying phenomenon for parents and teachers alike, and is attracting more attention of late, especially following the emergence of cyber bullying. More often than not, victims are somewhat embarrassed to speak up, and tend to keep this situation to themselves, until they start manifesting physical and/or psychological symptoms. By this time, the victim might have been suffering in silence for a while already, and the consequences take root.
Bullying goes far beyond aggressive behaviour among individuals: it implies an unequal intimidating power between the ‘actors’. There is a sense of inequality and unfairness in a bullying situation. The bully exerts physical and/or psychological power to obtain material resources, as well as recognition from his/her peers by demonstrating his/her dominion over the victims.
Although just about anyone can fall victim to bullying, there do seem to be certain characteristics which make an individual more prone to being victimised. Bullies tend to pick on individuals who are submissive and insecure by nature. And unfortunately, being physically and/or socially disadvantaged is another target cue for bullies.
One of the worst aspects of bullying is its persistence which places the victim in an endless state of fear and hopelessness. The bully’s ‘prey’ may already be in a weaker position from the onset, and such experience will only demoralise them further, inducing ever greater risks of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. In any case, it is a big blow to their self-esteem and a prime cause of stress.
Nowadays, there is certainly greater awareness about bullying and its harmful effects. A lot is said and written about the victims. However, bullies need help too. Bullying is an act of violence that may well escalate as s/he grows up. Such a person needs to master self-control. S/he needs to learn how to be content with the way s/he is, and with what s/he has.
Very often, the bully himself/herself may suffer from a lack of self-esteem, and such behaviour can be a desperate attempt to gain prominence at the expense of another. The bully himself/herself can also be passing through a bad patch, experiencing negative emotions, and venting it out on someone else. Sometimes s/he may be actually experiencing bullying within the family unit or elsewhere. However, there is never any valid justification for bullying another person.