Bullying: Mean Girls

Female bullying is nothing new. Along with male bullying, it has become a national epidemic. Bullying can begin as early as when a child starts attending school. Statistics show male bullying is more prevalent, but female-to-female bullying is much more subtle.

Types of female bullying
Female-to-female bullying rarely becomes physical. It usually involves:

  • Belittling
  • Exclusion
  • Teasing about appearance
  • Spreading rumors and gossip
  • Accusations of overly sexual behavior

“It can often be hard to stop this behavior between girls because it is not usually unidirectional,” said Jeanette Hoelzer, LCPC, behavioral health consultant, Memorial Physician Services–Chatham. “A more powerful girl bullies a less powerful girl, and she responds back with her own negative messages, so it can be hard to hold the initial bully responsible.”

Where it occurs
Bullying occurs most frequently in less-structured environments where adults have less of a presence. With social media at our fingertips, cyberbullies have access to their victims 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The top four places bullying occurs:

  • Social media/cellphone
  • School bus
  • Cafeteria
  • Hallways

“Bullying is often reported to me as happening when a teacher isn’t looking, usually during recess or at lunch,” said Ashley Cox, LPC, a Memorial Behavioral Health clinician embedded at a local school. “I also see bullying happening in families, usually between siblings. When I do family counseling in the home, I notice that siblings are sometimes very comfortable being mean to each other, and we often don’t view this as bullying because we expect siblings to bicker.”

Tips for parents
Limit and supervise social media, cellphone and internet access. Parents can be an advocate at school by documenting when and where bullying occurs and requesting concrete actions, such as a no-bullying contract or reducing access to areas where bullying occurs. Self-esteem is a powerful aspect to teach and also model. Parents should empower their children to like themselves for reasons other than appearance and what others think.

“I work with kids who bully and are victims of bullying, and I notice that a lot of times kids engage in this never-ending cycle of defending themselves by bullying back and, in turn, learn bad habits for social interaction until something is done to change it,” Cox said. “We have to remember that, developmentally, children don’t think logically and don’t weigh the consequences of their actions. This becomes an opportunity for professionals and parents to inform children about the impact of bullying.”

Resources
If you are concerned about someone in your life who is suffering from the effects of bullying, don’t let them suffer in silence. It may be time to reach out to a professional. Counselors are available at Memorial Behavioral Health. Call today for an appointment: 217-525-1064.

Read more about cyberbullying

Jeanette Hoelzer is a licensed clinical professional counselor at Memorial Physician Services– Chatham. She provides a full range of mental health services and specializes in treating ADHD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and trauma. Jeanette has worked in the behavioral health field since 2009 and has extensive training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has focused much of her work on serving the LGBTQ community and on training related to sexual and gender identity.
Ashley Cox is a licensed professional counselor who works as an on-site MOSAIC clinician at Memorial Behavioral Health. In her role, she provides a full range of mental-health services and specializes in emergency and crisis counseling, independent living skills, child and family therapy and anger management. She provides individual counseling, parenting classes, couples counseling and family psychoeducation. Cox also has experience working with individuals with schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, play therapy, art therapy and working with Alzheimer’s and memory-related disorders.