Although bullying has been around for many decades, recently bullying has become a popular topic. There have been many headlines which contain bullying and how the victims of bullying have been affected. Bullying is a social phenomenon that is a form of behavioral aggression which can occur anywhere. Bullying is defined as a systematic and recurrent aggressive behavior directed to an individual that is unable to defend themselves (Tariq & Tayyab, 2011). School bullying had first become a topic of interest in the 1970s for psychological research purposes for the work of Olweus (Tariq & Tayyab, 2011). Bullies come in different sizes, they do not necessarily need to be bigger than their victims. The behaviors of bullying can be categorized into three domains that are broad: physical, verbal, and relational bullying (Ang, Chong, Cheong, Lee, Tang, Liew, 2018). Bullying that is physical is an open act of physical harm on another person, verbal bullying is a reference of direct verbal attacks, and relational bullying is an inconspicuous aggression that results in the exclusion of an individual or individuals. Recently cyber bullying and sexual bullying have been added to the types of bullying. Technology has been a culprit in the increase of cyber and sexual bullying because it is more difficult to control and identify (Ang, Chong, Cheong, Lee, Tang, Liew, 2018). Bullying can have negative effects on an individual’s well-being on a physical, social, and emotional level. Bullying has an effect on everyone that is involved. Bullying affects the bully and the victim in a direct form but can also have an affect on the bystanders who witness the incident. There has been much data gathered on how bullying affects the victims and what bullying can lead to as well. From what has been gathered we have an understanding how an individual may become a target for a bully. There are various factors that can lead a bullying victimize individuals such as race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and physical or emotional characteristics. There have also been theories on how to resolve the issue of bulling, but better support needs to be gained for bullying to come to an end. What has not been explored are the effects bullying has on the bystanders that witness when the bullying happens. How bullying hurts everyone will be explored throughout this paper focusing on the how the bystander is affected by witnessing an act like bullying.
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Bullying has different forms and both males and females can be perpetrators. Males are more likely to use the physical form of bullying whereas females resort to verbal and relational forms of bullying (Ang, Chong, Cheong, Lee, Tang, Liew, 2018). Bullying can be best explained by the conflict theory. The conflict theory theorizes that society is composed of groups that are competing for power (Korgen & Frust, 2012). The act of bullying can be viewed as an imbalance of power where an individual is threatened, teased, or hurt in a physical manner in recurring times (Kuehn, Wagner, & Velloza, 2018). In the case of bulling, there are two groups, the victims and the bullies. The bullies prey on the weaker individuals. Bullies come in different forms, some are big some are small, but they have power, either physical or social power. They use that power to make others their victims. They exploit their victims, they put them down and keep them down, to continue to hold onto their power. The symbolic interactionist theory can explain how the problem of bullying is not taken seriously. The symbolic interactionist theory theorizes that society is socially constructed and is constantly created and recreated by the interactions that humans have with one another (Korgen & Frust, 2012). Bullying has become normalized because it has been around for so long. Parents may see the teasing as normal behavior and a phase their child is going through; this type of mentality has resulted in an acceptance of the behavior instead of putting a stop to the problem. Bullying is not a phase a child goes through, rather it is a learned behavior. Aside from seeing bullying as a mere teasing problem, bullying is also seen as a “rite of passage” (Adams, & Lawrence, 2011) until an act of violence happens and attention is brought to the issue.
Bullying affects everyone. Bullying can affect the bully, the targets of the bully, the bystanders, the school staff, teachers, and parents of the bully in an indirect or direct form. Bullying hurts the victim in physical, emotional, and mental manner. Victims of bullying are more likely to have poor academic performance which can lead to dropping out of school, others choose to commit suicide to escape the taunting of bullying (Adams & Lawrence, 2011). Bullying can hurt the perpetrator as well. The act of bullying can increase maladjustment in school, poor academic performance, increase the chances of consuming alcohol and smoking, increase the chances of becoming criminals as adults in the perpetrator (Amanda, 2015). In a 2009 ABC News report, it was found that thirty percent of American students are victims of bullying or are the bullies, leading to 160,000 students not showing up to school each day (Amanda, 2015).
Bystanders can be defined as individuals who are witnesses to behavior that is criminal or a violation of the rules. These individuals may act to assist the victim, to support the offender, or may not act at all (Hamby, Weber, Grych, & Banyard, 2016). According to Hamby, Weber, Grych, and Banyard (2016), the roles of the bystanders are the defenders if they assist the targeted victim of the bully or they can be perceived as reinforcers because they may support the bully and their actions by joining the bully on the teasing or beating. Bystanders can also be instigators by pumping up the bully to act (Eyes on Bullying, 2008). Bullying among the youth population is done primarily at school, mainly because parents are not around for them to put a stop to their actions (Lindstrom Johnson, Waasdrop, Gaias, & Bradshaw, 2018). According to Gilmour (2018), eighty-five percent of bullying is witnessed. Some witnesses of bullying are affected by the bystander effect, where they do nothing to help the targeted victim of the bully because they recognize the dangers that they are up against, or they do not act because they do not know how to act to help (Hamby, Weber, Grych, & Banyard, 2016). Other bystanders may not help because they think it is better to mind their own business and not get involved, they feel powerless up against the bully also, they may think that the targeted victim deserves being bullies, they do not want to draw attention onto themselves, they fear that the bully may go after them for revenge, or they think that telling an adult may make the situation worse or that the adult may not do anything to help (Eyes on Bullying, 2008). These bystanders contribute to the issue of bullying because they passively accept the bulling, they watch without acting. A bully wants an audience and passively watching an incident of bullying gives the bully an audience which further encourages the bully to keep going (Eyes on Bullying, 2008). Although some bystanders do not act, sometimes just their presence alone can reduce the physical harm inflicted upon the targeted victim of the bully (Hamby, Weber, Grych, & Banyard, 2016). A bully is less likely to inflict physical harm if there is some one around.
As for cyberbullying, it reaches a large platform. Since cyberbullying is done via the internet or through texting, there are multiple witnesses to the incident. Cyberbullying can be the most impactful to the victim. The anonymity that the internet offers makes it harder to track who the perpetrator is or perpetrators are. Cyberbullying can have many perpetrators and is harder to escape from because it does not just happen during school hours, and it does not just occur when the victim is online (Korgen & Frust, 2012). Cyberbullying can be someone taking an embarrassing photo of an individual or a group and posting on a social media site or text it out to others with the intentions on making fun of them. An individual or a group can be harassed on the social media sites, even if they are not active at the time of the harassment. Cyberbullying has increased suicide attempts (Kuehn, Wagner, & Velloza, 2018).
A major issue that is associated with being a witness of bullying is the concern of safety. Students that are witnesses to the act of bullying may have a hard time getting a sense of safety and a connection with those around them, both are vital human needs (Penn State, 2011). The bystanders that witness bullying can be perceived as victims because being a witness to an aggressive event has its repercussions on those individuals. Students that have been exposed to bullying more often can suffer form physical and emotional trauma compared to other students that have a limited exposure to bullying (Penn State, 2011). Witnesses are more likely to feel pressure to join the bully, increased anxiety, especially when recounting the witnessed incidents, feeling powerless and unable to stop the bully, becoming vulnerable to become a target of the bully, fear of being labelled as a bully or an associate of a bully, and guilt for not being able to help or for choosing not to help (Eyes on Bullying, 2008). Being a witness to bullying can also have physical effects such as physical stress symptoms like an increased heart rate, increased levels of perspiration, and increased levels of self-reported trauma (Penn State, 2011). The repercussions associated with frequent exposure to bullying can have a lifelong impact on the exposed individuals. The long-term repercussions caused by being a witness to bullying is lack of trust in peers and a diminished sense of faith in society.
The timeline for this study would be around a year. I would start by getting my staff together and choose a location. Then I would determine which approach would be best suited, a quantitative, qualitative, or a mixed methods approach, I would use a mixed methods approach. I like the idea of the mixed methods approach because it can give an in depth look into what is being researched. After determining the best suited method, I would begin to formulate questions to measure the relationship between the effects caused by bullying on bystanders. After formulating the questions, I would advertise the study to get participants for the study. Once we have participants, then the team and I would get to work by asking the questions that were formulated. I would choose a software for coding the qualitative data to interpret it, because coding manually can be laborious. After the coding is done we can relate the qualitative data and the quantitative data to conclude our results to see how bullying affects the bystanders.
The participants I would want to be in the study would be students in middle school and high school. The age range would be eleven years old to eight-teen years old. According to a study done, bullying is widespread and can happen at any place and the age groups are various identify (Ang, Chong, Cheong, Lee, Tang, Liew, 2018). Although bullying can start as early as primary school age, bullying peaks in middle school and can continue into high school. The strategy I would use would be a questionnaire. I would have students fill out the questionnaire in order to narrow down the participants that experience more emotional and physical symptoms a bystander can experience. Questions on the questionnaire would be derived based on literature review that are relevant to the topic and would consist of on a scale of one to ten, one being the lowest and ten being the highest, how exposed are you to bullying, how likely are you to help a victim when being bullies, how likely are you to walk away after seeing someone being bullies, how likely would you report an incident of bullying to a teacher, staff member, or parent, how much does you heart rate increase when you see an act of bullying done on a victim, how much do you anxiety levels increase, how upset do you feel after witnessing someone being bullied, how safe do you feel at your school, how much would you trust your peers. After going over the results, I would have a general idea of who I would choose to get a more in depth look of what a bystander goes through after being a witness of bullying. Once I narrow down the number of participants, I would do interviews. Questions on the interviews would be how long have you been exposed to bullying, why don’t you intervene for the victim, or why did you intervene for the victim, who did you report the incident to and so on. To get a physical sense of what a bystander feels at school where they do not feel safe I would measure the student’s salivary cortisol levels. These levels show a reaction of stress of the body through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal gland activity.
I would have five people on staffing. The principal investigator, co-investigator, faculty advisor, and other key personnel to help execute the questions. The statistical analysis method that is suitable is the Pearson correlation coefficient because I am looking for a relationship between the bullying and the effects it may have on the bystander. “The Pearson correlation coefficient is a number between -1 and +1 that measures both the strength and direction of the linear relationship between two variables. The magnitude of the number represents the strength of the correlation. A correlation coefficient of zero represents no linear relationship,” (Creech, 2018). I would use a scatter plot to analyze the data to see how the incident of bullying affects the bystander. The number of participants would be 1,861 because on average the student population in a middle school in California is 862 and the average student population in a high school in California is 999 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001). Depending on the data, a relationship between witnessing bullying and the negative physical and emotional effects would be established.
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My findings can help raise more awareness on the topic of bullying because it will show if there is a relationship between bullying and how it affects the bystander. If there is, it will show that bullying just does not affect the victim, but it the effects can be more widespread. Bullying can be reduced which can have a positive impact not only on a victim’s overall health, but the bystander as well.
More and or better support can be gained to help stop the issue of bullying at schools. schools can use this information to create better bullying policies and prevention programs to help students feel safe at school. With the research and new insight gained from this study, I hope that the current barriers that prevent bullying from being resolved are overcome because now there will be more light on how bullying does not just affect the targeted victim, but has a widespread affect that reaches the witnesses as well. Bystanders can play an important role in reducing the physical harm inflicted upon the victim, or they can also make or break the situation. Bystanders can make the situation better for the victim by helping or can make it worse by starting the problem or encouraging the perpetrator. With these findings, students can learn how powerful their help can be in a bullying situation. Law guidelines, finances, lack of support can present barriers to help solve the issue of bullying. There is not a law that applies specifically to bullying (Rivara & Le Menestrel, 2016). Federal law along with policy gives a foundation for the responses of bullying. Protection and remedies for specific individuals are offered by the federal law. Recommendations are provided to states and localities by the federal agencies to help develop guidelines and assess the responses to bullying. Rights are secured by Civil rights and discrimination laws. Those protected under policies and laws are protected against harassment on the basis of discrimination against race, color, national origin, sex, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, and religion. Anti-discrimination laws are overseen and applied by the United States Departments of Justice and Education. Schools are found to be in violation of the provided federal laws of discrimination and other regulations that are used to regulate when bullying revolves on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion and creates an environment that is hostile which promotes and tolerates such behavior that created a hostile environment, and does address the situation in an adequate manner or is ignored by school staff (Rivara & Le Menestrel, 2016). There are limitations on federal law and which classes are protected, if a child is not considered to be part of a protected class and is victim of bullying, the victim may not have a solution under the federal law, but state or local solutions can be offered.
Currently every state in the United States has bullying regulation. There are multiple states that are requiring schools to enforce a bullying prevention program, however, some states are mandating that the prevention program be based off of evidence (UCLA Center, n.d.). Even though there has been data that shows there has been an increase of prevention policies at a state and district level, there has not been similar improvements at the schools. A survey that included superintendents, state board members, school board members, advocates for school wellness, and the directors of state public health, produced some barriers that have prevented bullying policies from reaching the schools are sufficient funding (UCLA Center, n.d.). Concerns of a budget being a barrier include insufficient budgets to pay for the costs that are related to employees, capacity building, and mandates that are not adequately funded. Another factor presented by the surveyed group was lack of time and competing priorities (UCLA Center, n.d.). The lack of time comes from competing priorities and also directives linked to restrictions in contracts, required curriculum, or academic achievement emphasis. Proper training, educating, and gaining support of important no staff, such as students, parents of students, and community members, was also presented as a barrier (UCLA Center, n.d.). Having the adequate tools for supporting the implementation and development of the policy was also a barrier presented by the surveyed group.
Parents have an impact how their child is affected by bullying as well. Parental support can be lacking at times. Johnson, Waasdorp, Gaias, and Bradshaw (2018) did a study on the responses of parents when their child is a victim of bullying, and how the school characteristics can influence their responses. They were able to identify three types of parental responses to victimization; only talking to their child, contacting the school, or handling the situation by themselves. Parents who only had a talk with their child encouraged them to ignore the bully, walk away, or tell a school staff member. The researchers found that the majority of parents chose to only talk to their child after being a victim of bully. It was also found that parents who think that the school policies are enforced well, a school characteristic, do not contact the school because they assume the school has the situation under control. Parents of a lower socioeconomic status also just talked to their child, but they encouraged their child to fight back if they needed to. Parents also play a big role in reducing bullying by explaining to their child how they can help a victim rather than be an unhelpful bystander (Eyes on Bullying, 2008). Parents can encourage their children to speak up and notify an adult if they do not want to physically or verbally intervene with the bully.
Bullying has been around for decades but has been being brought to new light. The issue of bullying is an imbalance of power between the bully and their victim. Bullies can be social outcasts or can be popular, they can also be big or small. Bullies use their strengths to keep their victims down. Both males and females can be perpetrators, but both sexes take on different forms of bullying. Bullying can have negative affects on their victims and the violence of bullying can also have negative affects on the bystanders who witness the act. The conclusions of this study has the purpose to bring new light to an old situation. I would hope that The findings can be used to overcome the barriers that do not allow the issue of bullying to be resolved. Better programs and training can be offered to solve bullying which can have positive outcomes on the overall health of the victims, bullies, and bystanders and can create an environment where students feel safe.
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