The number of bullying cases seems to be growing in tandem with the popularity of digital social media and mobile phones. However, the solutions to harassment transcend the differences between face-to-face confrontation and electronic confrontation. A bully’s motives are similar regardless of the medium, and therefore a parent or child’s ways of managing the harassment should remain consistent.
Not all bullies are the same, and it is not possible to say that one solution will end all harassments. The key is to determine what type of bully one is facing. Some bullies redirect their own feelings of insecurity by victimizing others that they perceive to be outcasts, but not all bullies feel this way. Some bullies are self-assured and commit acts of harassment for vindictive or malicious reasons. It is important to identify which type of bully one may be facing as their reactions to actions like avoidance or walking away will be very different depending on their personal motives.
For small children, the advice for dealing with bullies should always be to tell an adult. Small children are extremely formative and easily influenced by their emotions and situations. By always encouraging them to tell an adult, parents are ensuring that an opportunity to correct the situation through consultation for both the bully and the victim can occur. For older children, the tell-an-adult solution is less reasonable and may actually worsen some situations although it must be stressed in any case where physical violence is involved. For tweens and teens, it is vitally important that parents give good advice for handling harassment situations in a non-escalating manner.
Parents and children should remember that movies and popular media fictitiously portray manners for dealing with bullying that can actually have disastrous results if applied to actual situations. Humiliating or physically harming a bully is never an appropriate recourse. Instead, victims must take away the psychological reward associated with harassment for the bully.
There is a target reaction that the bully wants, and they will continue to return to the victim as long as the victim continues to supply that reaction.
Teaching children that the power to overcome the torments of a bully is in controlling one’s reaction is important. Deflecting a bully’s comments can be done with simple non-emotional responses that question the integrity of the comment. The object is to diffuse the power of the harassment and not to attack the bully or to engage in physical violence.