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Spot on Science: Why Do Kids Bully?

Why do kids bully? And what can we do to help those being picked on and to make sure we aren’t being a bully without even noticing it! Margaret interviews a mental health therapist about the brain science behind bullying.

This video is funded by Ohio's Broadcast Educational Media Commission.

Class Discussion Questions: 

1) Create a plan for what you should do if you witness bullying.

2) Why is cyberbullying so hurtful?

Educator Resources:

Social/Emotional Learning topics are often difficult to surface in the classroom. When discussing topics of this nature, we recommend that you consider the needs of your community, seek any needed support from reputable organizations or colleagues, such as a guidance counselor or school psychologist. In order to support you, we have found the following resources to be of interest on the topic of bullying:

Read the Script:

[Margaret] Anyone else ever get picked on? It's not a fun experience. And the excuse kids will be kids really isn't a good one. To find out some of the science behind bullying and what to do when it happens to us or a friend, I called up Robyn Hill. She's a licensed mental health counselor and has some great insights on bullying. I started by asking her to tell me a bit about her job. Take a look.

[Robyn] Yes, I'm a mental health therapist. So basically, what I do is I talk to people for a living. I sit down with them and talk about how things are affecting their mood or their feelings, and help them find ways to feel better about the way they're feeling. I went to school, I got a master's in counseling and I learned different techniques to help people change their emotions and change their thinking patterns so that they can feel better about themselves.

[Margaret] And so I know that you talk with kids a lot about bullying. What exactly is bullying? 'Cause, it's not just someone, you know, name-calling or picking on you.

[Robyn] Yes, bullying is when a child tries to give themselves power over other children. And so they do use a lot of words. There is picking. Sometimes there's physical violence. One of the main things that is very hurtful is when a isolated child from the social group now not only are people picking on you in class or in at the social environment but it's also on the internet. And it can be very, very hurtful. Because that stuff, people can't get rid of. Once a meme is out there and is viral, it doesn't go away, even if the original person takes it down. So we definitely wanna stay away from cyberbullying.

[Margaret] What might cause someone to bully?

[Robyn] It's various reasons. It's no exact science to it, but a lotta times, it's people who have grown up or children who are raised in environments where being mean is a common factor. They're protecting themselves from those around them and so they become mean towards everyone that's around.

[Margaret] You're not born a bully, but you can learn that this is a way that you navigate through the world.

[Robyn] Definitely, definitely.

[Margaret] And so I wonder what is something that kids can do if they see someone being bullied?

[Robyn] I always say point it out to an adult. Let the adults intervene. Don't try to handle it yourself. But what you can do is not participate in it. If you see a kid being bullied or being isolated, bring them into the group. Don't let them get pushed out and ostracized from everyone else.

[Margaret] Is there anything I should do different if I'm being bullied, myself?

[Robyn] If you're being bullied yourself, I would say first, make sure you let an adult know, whether it's a teacher, school counselor, principal, parent, whoever, so that they can help change the situation. But also, your own thing that you can do is your affirmations is a great tool to use. Say things in the morning. Remind yourself of how great you are so that those words throughout the day do not, don't hurt you as much because you know who you are.

[Margaret] I like that. So we kind of talked about how bullying can be learned, but you can also kind of unlearn it.

[Robyn] Yes.

[Margaret] By building yourself up.

[Robyn] Definitely, definitely. It's a great tool to use.

[Margaret] Well thank you so much for chatting with me today, Robyn, I appreciate it.