In about 85-88% of bullying incidents observed on the school playground, peers were present and were watching the bullying happen. Peers spent 54% of the time watching the child who was bullying and 21% of the time joining in. Children are drawn to bullying episodes, even though the majority of children say they don’t like to see another child being hurt. Children who are bystanders learn about the negative use of power and aggression in relationships. Overtime, bullying behaviour becomes “normalized”.
With a captive audience, a child who is bullying receives the attention of peers and this brings social status. Peer attention and status reinforces the bullying behaviour (making it more likely it will be repeated). Yet, when peers had the confidence and courage to intervene, the bullying ended within 10 seconds in the majority of playground episodes.
There are many forms of bullying, name calling, physical hitting, cyber bullying, it can be racist, sexist, demeaning. As kids or teens in school we call this bullying. But as we get older it turns into a form of harassment and we’re penalized for this. Kids and teens have their own form of punishment by the schools or parents. But the fact that kids are capable of performing acts like harassment in this day and age is horrifying.
Without intervention, a significant number of youth who bully in childhood will continue to bully as they move through adolescence and into adulthood. As children mature, the nature of bullying changes. From early adolescence, new forms of aggression emerge. With developing thinking and social skills, children become aware of others’ vulnerabilities and of their own power relative to others.
Bullying then diversifies into more sophisticated forms of verbal, social, homophobic, and sexually and racially based aggression. Over time, these new forms of aggression are carried forward into different relationships and environments. The destructive lessons learned in childhood about the negative use of power may translate into sexual harassment in the workplace, dating violence, marital abuse, child abuse, and elder abuse.