Taking a Stand Against Mean Girls
Bullying happens when a person or group intentionally and repeatedly tries to hurt or control someone. It can take many forms: Physical bullying can include hitting, pushing, or kicking someone. It can also mean forcing another person to do something she doesn't want to do. Verbal bullying happens when someone uses hurtful words against another girl in order to hurt her feelings, threaten her, or damage her reputation. Social bullying is happens when groups of girls isolate or shun another girl in order to make her feel like an outsider. The bottom line? No matter what sort of bullying is occurring, or who is being bullied, the effects can be physically, emotionally, and mentally damaging.
Now that teens spend so much time online, bullying has made its way from the cafeteria to the computer screen. When the bullying occurs at school, teens endure it until the bell rings. With cyber-bullying, the emotional abuse can continue in your own bedroom "“ so it's very easy for cyber-bullying to go unnoticed.
According to Love our Children USA's campaign called Stomp Out Bullying, cyber-bullying is "one or a group of kids or teens using electronic means via computers and mobile phones (emails, websites, chat rooms, instant messaging and texting) to torment, threaten, harass, humiliate, embarrass, or target another kid or teen." The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center notes that almost 30 percent of youth in the United States "are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying, or both."
So why do it? Bullying is a learned behavior. Girls who bully have often been bullied themselves, and they continue the cycle for different reasons. One girl may bully because it makes her feel better about herself to put someone down. Another may see bullying as a way to maintain popularity within her group of friends. A girl may also bully another girl out of jealousy. She may be unhappy, so she takes out her frustrations on a girl she knows would not fight her back. Whatever reason a bully uses to justify her behavior, she should know that she is doing something wrong.
Are you being bullied in school or online? You should know that it is not your fault and that you're not alone. Reach out to a trusted adult (a parent, mentor, or teacher) for help. Don't stay silent. Feel like you don't have someone to talk to? Call the Covenant House Nineline at 1-800-999-9999 and talk to a professional. Talking about what's going on in your life will help "“ and it could prevent another girl from experiencing similar abuse. Don't repeat the cycle. Joining in with others and picking on another girl (or boy!) can hurt someone for years and years.
One of the most powerful things any girl can do to counteract bullying is to learn confidence. A bully can't belittle a person who loves herself -- and a girl who loves herself doesn't need to hurt others to feel better about her own life. Make bullying stop with you.
For more information:
Stop Cyberbullying" http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/index2.html
Girlshealth.gov on Bullying http://www.girlshealth.gov/bullying/
National Crime Prevention Council http://www.ncpc.org/newsroom/current-campaigns/cyberbullying/
National Association of Social Workers' Tips for Teens on Handling Bullies http://www.socialworkers.org/practice/oneTeen/pdfFiles/teens/bullyingTips.pdf
Covenant House Nineline: 1-800-999-9999
Tell us what you think about bullying! Email us at email@example.com or send tweets to Twitter.com/teenvoices.
This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Teen Voices. Sign up now to get your copy!
Tagged as: confidence, cyberbullying, emotional abuse, handling bullies, Love Our Children USA, mean girls, National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, school life, self-esteem, standing up to bullying, Stomp Out Bullying, teen abuse, teen bullying, teen girls