Bullying and intimidation are a major social problem in many cultures. Since it is widely considered immature and mean to perpetrate violent or threatening acts, it is not surprising that incidents of bullying are usually found among young people where they gather to socialize. Schools are a hotbed of bullying activity, and many children are victimized. Sociology can enlighten the way we address this persistent problem.
Students from all socio-economic, racial, gender, and ethnic groups are bullied to varying degrees. Any perceived weakness in a young person can be targeted for threats, anger, physical violence or other forms of unjust treatment. Bullies pick targets according to their own prejudices, and there is usually no real justification for their ire.
Bullies who routinely intimidate and hurt victims are often referred to as "serial bullies." As a social group, they share a set of tendencies, characteristics, and behaviors which are demonstrable over time. Bullies tell lies habitually to achieve certain results, and they are experts at appearing innocent in the presence of everyone but their victims. Bullies often neglect their homework and other responsibilities, and they are very proficient at getting what they want from others. They keenly absorb social norms and functions to enable themselves to fit in and escape blame.
Long-term bullying can have a number of detrimental effects that last for years, even decades, after youngsters are perpetrators or subjects of the abuse. Victims tend to skip out of school and individual classes to avoid their predators. Up to 160,000 kids are absent from school each day due to fear, according to Dr. William Pollack, a noted expert on the subject of school bullies. Suicide has also been reported on the part of victims. Bullies are likely to remain violent as young adults. In his research, Dr. Dan Olweus notes that 60 percent of boys who bullied during middle school are convicted of a crime by the time they reach the age of 24.
In an effort to address the widespread social ill that stems from of bullying behavior, many schools have established anti-bullying groups comprised of students and teachers. Courses are taught by administrators, community groups, and nonprofit organizations to raise awareness of the problem. Since suicide and criminal convictions are very real considerations, it is important to make the issue less of a hidden shame and more of an open discussion in classrooms everywhere.
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