Why do people bully? Bullies tend to have ‘ridiculously high self-esteem’ | VailDaily.com

Why do people bully? Bullies tend to have ‘ridiculously high self-esteem’

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series regarding bullying.

EAGLE COUNTY — Kids have been bullying each other since Cain smacked Abel with a rock.

The modern difference is the delivery systems — the internet, cell phones and social media — which provide a level of anonymity that did not exist until a couple decades ago, says Candace Eves, prevention specialist with Eagle County Schools.

"Bullying is no longer just on the playground, at the park or when walking home from school. It now follows our youth home and is accessible 24 hours a day," Eves said. "Social media and technology have both created new and ever changing ways for youth to bully each other."

“Bullies can stop being bullies, and victims can stop being victims. What we’ve learned is that these are temporary social roles, not permanent personality characteristics.”Jaana JuvonenProfessor, University of California Los Angeles

'Cool' kids bully more

Jaana Juvonen is a professor of developmental psychology at the University of California Los Angeles, who spent a decade researching bullies and their victims. Bullying runs the gamut from physical aggression to spreading of nasty rumors and cyberbullying, Juvonen said.

When she started her research, she said bullying was not viewed as much of a problem.

"Ten years ago there was a belief that bullying is just part of growing up, that these experiences … 'help build character,'" Juvonen said. "We have learned that bullying can have devastating consequences — most tragically, those cases where victims of bullying have committed suicide."

Suicide is at the forefront of many minds after a local teen took her own life last month.

Most people think bullies have low self-esteem. They're wrong.

Most bullies have "almost ridiculously high levels of self-esteem," Juvonen's research found. In fact, they tend to be among the more popular kids in school, Juvonen said.

However, both bullies and victims are simply playing roles, Juvonen's research found. Neither is a fixed personality quality.

"Bullies can stop being bullies, and victims can stop being victims," Juvonen said. "What we've learned is that these are temporary social roles, not permanent personality characteristics."

Try a little empathy

Kids can be cruel, Eves said.

Social media and technology have both created new and ever-changing ways for youth to bully each other. These avenues present challenges to parents and community members in monitoring the rapid dissemination of information that then disappears in seconds.

To help prevent it, you can begin by modeling empathy and teaching each other how to have empathy for one another, Eves said.

"Empathy creates open, authentic appreciation for others and their differences," Eves said. 

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Youth also need the opportunity to tell someone what's going on. One quick resource to do that is Safe 2 Tell Colorado and will allow the opportunity for the bullying to be stopped, Eves said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

What’s safe 2 tell?

Safe 2 Tell Colorado is a way for kids, parents and others to anonymously report concerns, including bullying.

To learn more, call 1-877-542-7233 or go to https://safe2tell.org/.

Why do kids bully?

Bullying is a complex problem that is not as simple as it is often portrayed. Part of building empathy is seeing the reaction of others when we say or do something unkind and feeling badly for having hurt another person’s feelings. Unfortunately, technology allows bullies to hide behind a screen, so they never have to see the other person’s reaction. Additionally, because many students are continuously plugged into technology, they may never get a break from constant bullying. Mean and harassing messages and pictures can be sent at any time, day or night. Most students who are cyber bullied never express their hurt and rarely tell a trusted adult what is happening. It is extremely important to report bullying when it happens.

According to Stopbullying.gov, most bullying takes place in middle school. During this stage of development, children’s brains are not fully formed. The frontal cortex, where executive functioning skills that help us to decide right from wrong, is still being developed. Children in their early teens do not generally have the skills they need to understand the harm they are causing when they bully. They may not realize how hurtful their messages are to others or the implications of their words. Many kids do not take bullying as seriously as they should. It is important to teach children how to understand the results of their actions.

What can we do to prevent bullying?

At EVMS we have several preventative measures in place. We are a No Place for Hate School, which is a program offered by the Anti-Defamation League. It is a student group that creates events and campaigns around kindness.

This year EVMS also started a group called, Prism, which is a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) that supports the LGBTQ community in our school. It provides a safe place for students to talk, listen, and learn about ways to be supportive and welcoming to all.

Bullying prevention is also part of the counseling curriculum that we deliver to all 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

· In 6th grade students are part of the Upstander Program, which teaches students how to address bullying in a safe and constructive way when they see it happening.

· 6th and 7th graders also watch a documentary called, “Be Strong” and learned about how to react and stand up to bullies if they are being bullied themselves. The lesson provides life skills for protecting themselves.

· 8th graders learned about healthy relationships and dating violence, which is often compounded by cyber bullying.

· All students receive lessons on internet safety and cyber bullying.

· All students receive lessons on social media awareness, in which they learn about the harmful effects that social media can have on brain health.

· 6th graders receive the complete Signs of Suicide training. 7th and 8th graders have follow up lessons. Part of the learning is about how even one small act of kindness can have an important impact, what to look for if someone is having suicidal ideation, and how to report concerns to trusted adults.

Kayleen Schweitzer M.A., Professional Licensed School Counselor, Eagle Valley Middle School