Power of words
When I think about a bully, I picture someone hitting or pushing, or throwing things. Often, though, a bully?s only weapon is words. Up to half of the time, kids tease others about being gay. Whether the description is true or not, the teasing is unkind. That kind of negative talk is called homophobia.
By the seventh grade, homophobic bullying can turn into sexual harassment. This is much more dangerous. It can hurt people deeply and even physically.
Bullies also tend to use language that is racist or otherwise offensive.
Another recent study found that obese kids are more likely to be bullied. The study looked at kids in the third through sixth grades. That?s something that teachers and parents need to watch out for, say the study?s authors.
While bullies come in all shapes and sizes, studies suggest a few patterns. For example, bullying usually begins with just one ringleader, maybe two. Those leaders are the people who hold the group together. Ringleaders tend to be popular, athletic and attractive. That doesn?t necessarily mean that other kids actually like them. It just means that these bullies have good social skills. And they have the power to get good kids to do bad things.
Deep inside, bullies often hold in a lot of anger. Perhaps their parents fight a lot. Or maybe their siblings beat them up all the time. As these troubled kids hit puberty, they might just feel angry at the world. Bullying can make them feel better, at least for a little while.
It?s easy for a ringleader to gather a posse because most middle-school students want to feel like they belong to a group. Most students also want to protect themselves from getting attacked. Once a bully has a group of followers, he or she makes life miserable for others, often for no reason at all.