I have been asked if certain children possess traits making them stand out more, leading them to become the victims of bullies. After studying the research, speaking with experts, as well as kids themselves, there are certain qualities that kids may possess/display which improves the likelihood that they will be bullied.
The following is a composite profile of children who are most likely to become the victim of a bully. If precautions are put into place, sometimes the event of a bullying encounter can be prevented. What bullies look for in potential victims:
1) Children who lack social skills needed to initiate and maintain friendships. Children who are alone are isolated in schools are more likely to be picked on.
2) Children who are isolated, anxious, insecure or those who cry very easily. Once a bully sees this, it is like a shark smelling blood in water.
3) Children who exhibit fragile self-esteem. Children who are down on themselves, hate themselves or feeling depressed are more likely to be picked on. Children who have experienced a previous trauma. Word gets around that once a child has become an easy target, others jump on the band wagon. There have been several incidents of Facebook and Internet posting of victims.
4) Children with emotional, behavioral and/or attention difficulties. Children with learning disabilities or physical disabilities are more likely to be assaulted.
5) Children who are physically weak or small in size. Often times, these kids are most preyed on in gym class and at recess. Did you know that the game dodge ball has been banned in several US states because they view it as promoting violence and picking on the weak—it wrecks a child’s self-esteem!
6) Children who use money, toys and bribes to protect themselves. Once a child needs to use “security money” to send a message, the message will become expensive. Not only does the bully expect more, but others start coming around looking for their share!
7) Children new to a school who have not adjusted well after an adequate period of time. The worst time to move a child to a new school is in the middle of the year! Groups and cliques have already been formed.
Children who are victims need a supportive, nurturing, small group or individual settings to encourage them to share their feelings, state needs and practice new skills. Decreasing the victim’s isolation is the primary focus. You have to help the child broaden their abilities for friendship making skills. Children need to learn and develop an understanding of self-esteem. You have to teach skills which result in helping victims feel empowered. Finally, teach students to identify a trusted adult… someone they can confide in and go to whenever they are bullied.