Bullying: Proactive Physical Educator's Contribution to School-Wide Prevention

Article excerpt

Bullying has been thoroughly examined over the past few decades, especially in the early '90s and again at present. Although not a new concept, bullying continues and can be considered an increasing problem in schools across the nation (Feinberg & Robey, 2008). Societal awareness of and concern for school violence has become mainstreamed due to the fatalities and massacres that have occurred. Life-threatening cases are certainly adequate cause for alarm, but they are not the focus of this article. This article addresses fundamental concepts of victimization, including cyberbullying trends, educational issues, physical education curricula, anti-bullying management in physical education, and school-wide intervention.

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Bullying involves the intention to hurt the feelings of the victim. Teasing, in essence, can be viewed as a form of verbal bullying depending on the relationship between the students involved and the intent (Sweeting & West, 2001). Research demonstrates that victims of bullying often experience low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, insecurity, oversensitivity, introversion, and withdrawal from social activities (Goddard, 2008; Sullivan, Cleary, & Sullivan, 2004). When analyzing cases of bullying, it is important to keep certain aspects in perspective, such as the distinction between friendly joking, arguing, and bullying. The purpose of bullying is to harm, seek revenge, or personally attack an individual (Vandebosch & Van Cleemput, 2008). The modern term "cyberbullying" can be broadly defined as bullying via the Internet (Juvonen & Graham, 2001) and it can refer specifically to bullying through multiple forms of technology, including computer instant messaging, online chat rooms, email, blogs, social networking web sites, and text messaging (Juvonen & Gross, 2008). Cyberbullying and traditional in-school bullying are commonly interconnected in terms of the effects, though they have an obvious difference in modes of execution. The well-recognized emotional torment of traditional bullying also applies to cyberbullying, as both types have the potential for damaging psychological consequences for victims (Juvonen & Gross).

Cyberbullying Trends

Communication technology is an influential part of adolescents' social networking. New technologies have added variations to bullying behavior, posing new concerns. Educators now confront not only face-to-face bullying, but bullying that takes place through multiple communication devices. Bullies now have a number of channels through which to communicate and expose victimization to the public. Messages can be copied and spread, pictures can be manipulated, and humiliating comments can be posted in chat rooms, on social networking web sites, and through group email or text messages (Almond, 2008; Vandebosch & Van Cleemput, 2008).

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A major difference between traditional bullying and cyberbullying is that perpetrators can remain anonymous in the digital world. This takes the confrontation aspect of bullying out of the equation and empowers those who might have abandoned bullying in other situations. Situations involving anonymity can be a source of additional distress for victims (Juvonen & Gross, 2008). Students who are bullied in cyberspace are likely bullied in school and vice versa. As children mature, physical aggression typically declines before verbal and nonverbal aggression, so cyberbullying can be a prolonged problem (Sullivan et al., 2004). The amount of time children spend using the Internet and their cell phone is a significant contributing factor to bullying and should be kept in mind when developing anti-bullying policies and programs (Maher, 2008).

Educational Issues

Schools and organizations have taken steps to combat bullying by implementing programs or character-building concepts to minimize victimization and school violence. …