In a recent article published by CNN, hundreds of teens commented on the biggest issues they face in adolescence. Of the many comments that are there, many teens expressed that the most pressing challenge they face is the social one. They have trouble fitting in and they feel the pressures of trying to be like others.
There’s a significant role that bullying plays in all this. For example, when gay adolescents are bullied and even killed for their sexual orientation, it might send a message to other teens which says: if you’re different, your life could be at stake.
When teens are faced with knowing that being different could bring severe consequences, it could squelch their need to find their identity, to play with their own creativity, and to deepen their strong need as a teen to discover the uniqueness of who they are.
Sadly, the amount of bullying that goes on among teens runs the gamut from minor teasing to losing lives. For instance, last year, one teen from Connecticut committed suicide after just one day of returning to school. Apparently, he had endured many years of bullying from classmates, including very violent assaults. In the eighth grade he was sent to the emergency room for stitches after being bullied in the hallway where other students watched the event. Sadly, he had published many warnings signs on social media sites before taking his life.
Bullying is the overt behavior of a person to belittle a child, teen, or adult and to make that person feel inadequate. It can include harassment, physical harm, demeaning speech and efforts to ostracize that person. Bullying is an active behavior and is done with intention to harm another, whether physically or emotionally. The bully often expresses aggression because he or she feels jealous, insecure, out of control, or simply, not good enough. The target is the recipient of a bully’s aggression. Often, the target feels as though he or she deserves the harsh treatment, that it’s his or her fault, or feels powerless. Teaching the target to take back control in order to stop the bullying can at times be effective.
There are various forms of bullying including cyber bullying, gay bullying, verbal bullying, text bullying, and female bullying. Bullying continues to be a severe problem within schools across the United States. According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, one out of every three students will experience bullying every year. A recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Psychiatry indicated that teen victims of bullying are at increased risk for emotional disorders in adulthood, and that bullies as well as victims of bullying are at the highest risk to think about and plan suicide. Furthermore, the relationship between bullying and mental illnesses were confirmed in a study done by Duke University last spring, revealing that effects of bullying are long lasting for both the victim and the bully.
When a teen is faced with the fears of being bullied or even teased, it can affect his or her experience of developing a strong sense of self. And a teen’s sense of self is fragile; it is timidly developing at this stage of life. Despite the outside pressures and influences, having the opportunity to reflect on who they are, what they would like to be, and what is important to them can facilitate a growing self-worth. In fact, it might be important for teens to answer the following questions:
- In the life area of leisure, what do you want?
- When you think about your finances, what do you want?
- What do you want in the area of health and wellness?
- When you think about what you want for your family members, what do you discover?
- What do you want in the life area of your work or career?
- What do you want in the life area of spirituality?
- When you think about making a difference in your world or being of service, what do you want?
- When you think about the area of travel, what do you want?
- What do you want in the area of your education?
- What have you been dreaming about that you really, really, really want?
These questions are meant to provide teens with a way to explore who they are, including their values and visions, in the face of any challenging outside influences.