Week 1: Coping with Bullying (teens) Module

Week 4: Coping with Bullying (teens)

Week 5: Family Support and Assertiveness Skills

Week 6: Cyberbullying and Recovery Pathways

Why teens suffer in silence and why you shouldn’t

Research shows that most teens commonly choose non-disclosure as a way of facing bullying. In other words, teens tend to hide the fact that they are being bullied and suffer in silence. Research suggests that certain cultural and racial factors might influence whether or not a teen tells someone about their experience. For example, a teen who comes from a family who strongly believes that “boys don’t cry” might hide the fact that they are being targeted by peers. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a teen to think that telling someone won’t do any good. 

When asked why they refused to seek help, teens might respond by saying things like:

  • “I didn’t want to be seen as a snitch”
  • “I did tell someone what was going on, but nothing happened“
  • “I thought it would just get worse“
  • “I’m ashamed or embarrassed to tell anyone”
  • “No one will believe me, I have no proof” 
  • “They wouldn’t take it seriously” 
  • “Betty told someone and no one helped her”
  • “It’s my problem, I should be able to deal with it”
  • “Adults won’t understand”
  • “There’s nothing anyone can do to help”

Lilly, who we met above, had her own reasons for not wanting to open up:

“At first, I felt like people would judge me. I was embarrassed to tell anyone that I was being made fun of.  I felt it was my fault and there was something wrong with me. I also thought no one would believe me or that they’d think I was being too dramatic. So, I kept quiet for too long.”

We know that it can be hard for a teen to reach out for help. They might fear the response or feel hopeless about change. Regardless of the motivator, teens usually prefer to keep stuff to themselves. When it comes to bullying, there is the added fear of retaliation. Teens often refuse to communicate out of fear that the bullying will get worse. Studies have shown that over 60% of teens don’t report bullying to school officials. Of those who do report to staff, approximately one third feel as though nothing is done in response. 

According to Social Workers at Toronto University, there are seven categories which explain the reasons behind such secrecy:

  • Cloak of secrecy – Bullying happens in a place where there are no adults around. In addition, bullying stays between the bully, victim and the bystander.

  • Power – A bully possesses more power than the victim, therefore, victims often feel afraid of reporting.
  • Self-blame – Victims blame themselves for the situation they are in.
  • Retaliation – Victims keep quiet out of fear that telling will make the situation worse.
  • Vulnerability – Some teens yearn for acceptance from the very people who torture them.
  • Fear of losing friendships – Victims keep quiet because they either consider the bully as a ‘friend’ or want a friendship with the bully in the future.
  • Adults won’t do anything  – Most teens doubt that adults can or will do anything against bullying.

Being bullied is not something you have to keep to yourself. You most definitely do not need to suffer alone. It is not uncommon to be targeted by and feel afraid of some people – this does not make you weak or less of a human. What counts is how we react in the face of these challenges. It can be hard to open up to others, but this is actually a sign of strength. By sharing your problems, you are taking control of the situation. Bullying is a common issue and it takes a community to fight back against these types of problems. You are not alone, even if this feels true.  

Most of the time society tends to normalize bullying as being simply a ‘part of growing up’. That is another reason teens hide the fact that they are being bullied. Bullying is NOT a normal part of growing up. This is a harmful misconception. We strongly believe that no one has to tolerate or experience bullying.