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Should Bullying be Criminalised

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    Bullying has long been a factor in the life of a growing child. It is a “repetitive aggressive behaviour with an imbalance of power” (Smith, 2016) which, can happen to anyone at anytime. It isn’t something that people can just get rid of nor is it something that can be expected until it has begun. It can come in many forms, such as, teasing, intimidation, physical abuse, verbal abuse, online intimidation and other. It has long been a normal part of growing up but, has seen to have many negative affects on those victimized. It is now recognized by many as a “preventable health problem” which can have many long-lasting consequences. Some of these can range from anxiety, depression, physical health issues, poor academic performance, increase in the possibility of suicide and finally could lead the victim to retaliate with more aggressive behavior. (Flannery, 2016) The long-term affects can take a toll on someone’s up bringing, for example, “individuals formerly bullied were found to have higher levels of depression and poorer self-esteem at the age of 23, despite the fact that, as adults, they were no more harassed or socially isolated than comparison adults” (Public Safety Canada, 2008) In addition, it is said that for students aged twelve to nineteen, 6% of them reported to have bullied on a regular basis, leading to roughly 8% of them being victims of bullying every week, whilst, only 1% reported to have done both bullying and been the victim on a regular basis. (Public Safety Canada, 2008) In terms of rick factors of bullying, boys are the more likely to bully others when compared to girls. This is in terms of direct bullying. In comparison, for indirect bullying where this can be considered as starting rumors and other. In fact, 61% of boy bullies reported to have done physical violence to their victim whilst 43% of girls had done more of isolation leading to them ignoring someone completely and trying to leave them out of things. (Farrington, 2010) Knowing that bullying can cause much harm to an individual and that it seems to be a dominating issue for our younger generation in both physical and psychological consequences, it seems fit to ask ourselves if bullying should be considered as a criminal act?

    To begin with this question, it should be important to identify the various levels of bullying as we need to give officers of the law a concrete line that determines if the act of bullying was a tease or a criminal act. For example, the consequences of teasing may be less harmful in the long run when compared to physical abuse. It also can differ with each case since some may be more sensitive to psychological abuse rather than physical if they are already suffering from mental illnesses or minor differences to others.

    I think that bullying shouldn’t be criminalised since, it can be difficult to take the actions of a minor as intentional criminal acts. That is the reason why we have juvenile vs adult prisons since young individuals have a difficult time calculating the consequences of their actions. The term Bullying is also very vague. Should we be giving a criminal record to someone was simply jealous of another which lead them to either teasing this other or pushing him around. Sure, it can lead to the individual to retaliate or harm himself but, can it be identified directly as a harmful criminal act. I think that it is all relative to the case in question which makes the answering of this question very tricky. An interesting study pointed out that most of the bullies that were brought up for questioning didn’t think that they identified as a bully. This was due to their behavior being the “norm” since, everyone seemed to pick on the one who was “out of place” or suffering from dyslexia, obesity and other where they stood out from the crowd. These bullies also felt that they were not the only ones responsible for their actions. It was simply an act that many classmates had in common. (Nassem, 2015) In this case, who would you punish and how far would you go with the punishment? The bullies seem to not acknowledge the consequences of their acts and on top of this don’t identify their acts as being bullying. In the same study, it reveals that bullies are identified as anti-social, lacking in empathy and are in search of popularity/attention with their peers. It is also brought up that the bullies in question try to mimic adult behaviors. This can come from their parents to even shows on TV such as The X Factor, big Brother, celebrity news, etc.(Nassem, 2015) With this, should it be that these bullies be put responsible for their acts or are they in turn the one’s who are suffering the most and hence, feel the need to call out for help with the use of lashing out their pain on more visibly vulnerable individuals?

    Unfortunately, inequality is hard to avoid. As schools tend to mimic societal discriminations and the teachers have big role to play in this. For example, say there is a vulnerable child who has special needs such as dyslexia. They may be called out by their teachers to read out a text and they refuse due to their timidity. The classic reaction from the teacher would be to punish the individual for their lack of efforts. The child may be more distracted than others which would lead them to disrupt the class. The teacher would then continue to punish them for their unacceptable behavior leading them to retaliate and continue to express a bad attitude in class. Those who identify with this vulnerability seem to characterize their relationship with peers to be “picked on” all the time. (Nassem, 2015) So given this information, how could we create a system that would prevent bullies from picking on those that are most vulnerable and have difficulties with even the teacher himself?

    Let’s look at some potential solutions for bullying in and out of schools. Usually, schools tend to use anti-bully campaigns. This creates a sense of awareness to the teachers, parents and children of the issue that is at hand. With this, there seem to be two different ways of dealing with bullying. The first being the more traditional approach which is the direct confrontation method. This could range from a simple discussion with the teacher explaining to the child that his actions are unacceptable to a sizable punishment considering the case. For example, in the United States, during the years of 1990 to 2000, schools started to implement “Zero-tolerance policies”. This would lead to the bully being either suspended or expulsed for his or her actions. This was following the violation of any school rules. (Garandeau, 2014) One of them being bullying. With this technique, many judge the use of it as being ineffective and would lead to little improvement in student safety in schools. Thus, many think that using non-punitive strategies could have better outcomes for both the victim and bully. This seems to make sense since the bully wouldn’t associate themselves being punished to the victim they were picking on. With negative consequences of an act tend to create anger in the one being accused so this would eventually make the bully come back with revenge and make matters worst for everyone.

    This is why the non-punitive or in other words, the use of a indirect/non-confronting approach would be a potentially positive alternative. This would include the Non-Blame method which was renamed as the “Support Group Method and the Method of Shared Concern”. This method consists of identifying the issue of bullying as a group effort. This would then push the teacher or leader of the group to create a discussion where all parties and even those that had little to the incident to take part. This then helps create a safe space where individuals can share their concerns without singling someone out as the sole person responsible for the bullying. This could have positive impacts on the group since they all would feel the need to attack this issue. Thus, creating a safe space for everyone to be included, no matter their position in the issue. Obviously, for this to work, the approach for discussion must be well thought through and brought up since, if not done anonymously, it could end up targeting someone specific going against the purpose of this method. This would allow the individuals to “avoid defensive and angry reactions” by the bully and would instead spark discussion to help solve the issue at hand.

    I think that this is an approach that has a lot of potential since, it puts the issue on a more global and general level rather than pinpointing the alleged source of the issue. With this, it could also help the teacher or leader of the group to harvest important information in order to avoid labelling the wrong person with the title of a bully. This could also spark thoughts in the bully’s head since, putting it as a group issue could create a sense of importance of the issue leading the bully to understand what he has done is wrong without having other to tell him this. The goal of this would be to “establish an agreement that the situation is painful for the victim and something must be done to change it.” In its essence, it would help the bully feel less targeted and maybe discover the root of his actions. (Garandeau, 2014)

    Bullying shouldn’t be made a crime since, it would only feed in the method of direct punitive method. As we have seen above, it seems to bring more negative outcomes rather than positive ones since it quickly labels an individual as a bad person when in reality, they are simply unaware of the impacts that their actions have on others. Now some may say that most bullies know the impacts of their actions but I argue that these actions are spark by more personal issues with the person itself and by avoiding the blame method, we can make it so that the problem can be identified and dealt with rather than going straight to a punishment method.

    In conclusion, I think that bullying is something that comes in many different facets. It may start from a simple tease to a more physical abuse toward the victim. None the less, these incidents have shown to have many negative affects on both the victim and the bully. Leading one to potential harm themselves or steer towards mental illnesses and the other (bully) to commit more serious crimes in the future. With the rising issue of bullying, it is important to understand at first the reasons why people bully and secondly how these incidents have as impacts on the individuals in question. It seems that the teachers are expected to take matters in their own hands to try and limit the use of bullying by their students. Even though direct interventions have been used for a long time, this doesn’t mean that it is the right way to deal with bullying. The use of non-confronting methods could end up having more positive outcomes for the bully, victim and all the other classmates. By eliminating targeting by simply making it a group problem, could help the bully realise on his own that his actions are wrong. This method would work best with children of older age but, shows to be a viable solution for the problem at hand. I think that with this, we can conclude that bullying shouldn’t be criminalised since it would only spark anger in the bully and hence lead them to continuing their efforts in pushing those weaker down to bring themselves up. Sure, it may be difficult to implement at first but, in the long run, I think that it can have many positive outcomes for the students and eventually bring a stop to bullying and any other sort of intimidation.

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