Many of us who live or work in Naperville (IL) or surrounding communities such as Aurora, Bolingbrook, Plainfield and Downers Grove have at some point experienced the distress of real or perceived aggression against us. Perhaps we were in junior high or high school being confronted by someone who meant us harm. Or, when a bit older, perhaps we found ourselves being subjected to someone’s manipulations at work.
Bullying can typically be defined as unwanted, hostile and repetitive behavior that is directed at a target to establish a power imbalance. While its effects can be profound for any individual, bullying can be especially problematic among our Naperville youth, who are often still developing the tools to properly manage such a situation.
Bullying also can take different forms: physical, verbal and social.
Physical bullying concerns harm to a person’s body or possessions. Some examples might be pushing, punching, kicking, tripping or spitting, as well as stealing or damaging someone’s belongings.
Verbal bullying involves writing or saying hurtful things directly to the target. Some examples might be name-calling, taunting, teasing, disparaging how somebody looks or threatening to cause someone harm.
Social bullying concerns damaging someone’s relationships or reputation. Some examples might be spreading rumors or lies, influencing people to avoid someone, embarrassing or humiliating someone online or in public, or excluding someone from a group.
Naperville’s young people might be bullied for any number of reasons, such as gender, religion, disability, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation or form of dress or physical appearance. Bullying also is not always a one-to-one encounter between the bully and the bullied person. It often involves groups of people who support one another in harassing the target, which today’s technology now makes even more opportune.
The context has become further complicated by divisions concerning those who wear face masks and those who do not and, by association, those who are vaccinated and those who are not. For young people, the related bullying has in some cases even come from parents, teachers and coaches. Furthermore, unlike typical bullying, it has tended to be driven more by social and political views than by seeking a power imbalance.
Two 2019 federal reports indicated the prevalence of bullying among our country’s youth:
The School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice) identified that about 22% of students aged 12 to 18 experienced some form of bullying.
The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) revealed that 19.5% of students in grades 9 through 12 reported being bullied on school property in the 12 months preceding the survey.
Consider also these statistics from a 2020 study by the US National Library of Medicine:
49% of youth in grades 4 to 12 have been bullied by other students at least once.
71% have witnessed bullying at school.
70% of school staff have reported being a witness to bullying.
At least 1 million kids were bullied on Facebook in 2017 alone.
Understanding Bullying Trauma
Bullying can have substantial repercussions on its victims. Those who are bullied commonly experience symptoms such as feeling anxious or depressed, losing sleep and appetite, struggling with schoolwork and dropping out of school. Most severely, suffering from bullying can advance to substance abuse and even suicide.
The effects of bullying also extend to the bullies themselves. The thoughts and feelings that drive their behavior can follow them deep into their lives to create undesirable burdens and outcomes.
If bullying behavior continues long enough, the distress it causes a young person can develop into a trauma that affects future mental, social, emotional, spiritual and physical function and well-being. A traumatized child or teen is also often more likely to bully and be bullied as they age.
In many cases, a youth’s silence in the face of great stress can contribute to his or her developing trauma. Statistics suggest almost two-thirds of victims do not report it to parents or teachers. This can result in emotional scars that are far more lasting and damaging than physical ones.
Just a few barriers to reporting a bully might be not knowing what to do or say, being afraid of retribution by the bully, fearing humiliation by other students, and not knowing whom to approach to report it.
If a youth is suffering from bullying, parents, teachers and other trusted adults can help guide him or her back toward a sense of safety and health by:
letting the youth express their thoughts and feelings in their terms
avoiding quick, reflexive thoughts or judgments about the cause and the solution
helping the youth clear up any misconceptions about being at fault for being bullied
supporting the youth in feeling safe and preventing future bullying; this includes checking in and following up with the youth to see if he or she is still being bullied
If it will benefit the youth, professional therapy for bullying trauma can be another way to encourage a young person’s healing and growth. School-based bullying-prevention programs in Naperville and local communities such as Downers Grove, Bolingbrook, Plainfield and Aurora can be highly effective as well.
As we’ve alluded to, technology-based communication (e.g. social media, text messaging, online gaming) creates easy and efficient opportunities for personal attacks and intimidation. These forms of aggression are known as cyberbullying.
Statistics suggest that the percentage of cyberbullying doubled between 2007 and 2019. Girls reported being often the victims of rumors and mean comments, while cyberbullying of boys often involved threats.
Statistics from 2019 indicate that 36.5% of U.S. middle school and high school students have been cyberbullied. The greatest frequency appears to be among middle school students: A 2020 study indicated that 20.9% of 9-to-12-year-olds were victims, perpetrators or witnesses of cyberbullying.
In addition to offering 24-hour access for aggression, online bullying can leave permanent, public content that creates problems for someone well into the future. It also often occurs beyond parents’ and teachers’ awareness, making it difficult to recognize right away.
Preventing cyberbullying becomes increasingly important when we consider that 90% of tweens use social media or gaming apps on increasing platforms, such as YouTube, Minecraft, Roblox, Google Classroom, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and Fortnite.
If a young person is struggling with cyberbullying, support can include counseling with a professional who is trained and knowledgeable in ways to respond to and manage it.
Bullying Counseling for Naperville (IL) / Contact Us Today
Understanding bullying (including cyberbullying), creating awareness, and engaging young people in how to help prevent it contributes to safer and more-inclusive environments where youth can thrive in their relationships and their potential.
Eunoia Counseling provides caring, supportive bullying and cyberbullying counseling for tweens and teens throughout Naperville and communities such as Downers Grove, Bolingbrook, Plainfield and Aurora. We understand the storm a young person might be going through. Our services offer a meaningful way to pause, reflect, express and grow, as well as develop even greater emotional intelligence.
If someone you care about is contending with bullying or its after-effects, we welcome you to connect with us. We will listen to you and help be the peaceful guide that you need, including therapy for bullying or cyberbullying. Simply contact us at (630) 340-8747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.