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Kids and bullying: How bullies pick their targets offline and online

Bullying is a complex issue irrespective of whether it’s taking place in the schoolyard or the internet. Even though the threat has been under the scope for quite some time, there are still some aspects to it that still lack clarity. A primary example of this is the way instigators of bullying go about choosing their targets and how the selection varies in the offline and online world. Traditional beliefs about bullying made the matter seem simple and even unimportant. However, the growing prevalence of physical and emotional abuse in schools and cyber space, and its far-reaching implications for the victims, made prominent by the many heart-wrenching cyber bullying stories in recent years, has made it crucial to understand how the mind of bullies work and who face a greater risk of becoming victimized.

Traditional beliefs about bullying and selection of victims

For years, bullying was thought to be nothing more than horseplay that kids engage in or experience while growing up. Furthermore, it was assumed that victims of bullying were mainly kids that bullies saw as different, defined in terms of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and even popularity. Bullies ostensibly targeted anyone that could help them assert their authority and earn the respect of everyone around them through fear.

As per the traditional beliefs, pretty much everyone was under threat of becoming a victim of bullying, as it was not easy to tell who the bullies would view as different.

Contemporary findings adds clarity to the threat

Recent studies have debunked traditional beliefs about bullying and the selection criteria for choosing victims.

As both real-world and cyber form of bullying have been identified as a serious threat, capable of having far-reaching effects on the mental development of victims, it’s become vital to understand how bullies go about choosing their prey.

It has been found that bullies don’t simply target kids that are different. Factors such as gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and popularity are indeed relevant, but they don’t play the key role in attracting the attention of bullies. It’s the ease to bully that plays the primary role in the selection of target.

In the real world, bullies look for kids with personality traits that indicate vulnerability. These traits include shyness, unpopularity, nervousness, and physical weakness. All these things affirm that the target will neither be able to fight back, nor have someone stand up for them, thus making them sitting ducks. It is only after making their selection that bullies start attacking whatever it is that makes the victims different, including disability.

Cyberbullies generally look for targets that are easy to attack as well, though the selection criteria is based on the social standing and articulation skills of victims rather than their personality traits. It’s much easier for them to bully someone who isn’t as good with words as they are, or who doesn’t enjoy a great deal of support online. Of course, the selection may be based on other factors as well such as revenge, jealousy or jealousy. The anonymity offered by Internet also provides the victims of offline bullying to get back at the instigator in cyber space.

Understanding how the mind of bullies work and why they target certain type of kids more than others can help parents and educators to prevent and control the issue more effectively.