Kids with stronger self-image less vulnerable to bullying

Published: Apr. 2, 2018 at 8:08 PM EDT
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Teen suicide rates are rising, and cyberbullying is too. About half of young people have experienced some form of cyberbullying.

Meet a young man who not only stood up to his bully but also won the fight!

It’s been almost 10 years since he was first bullied, but Quinton Williams remembers those angry and ugly words starting in the first grade.

“I felt like an outcast. I felt like I didn’t belong," Quinton explains.

The bully or bullies used the anonymity of the internet to target Quinton.

“They say a lot of stuff that they won’t say in front of your face,” he explains.

Dr. Sameer Hinduja is a cyberbullying expert at Florida Atlantic University, and he knows how much words can hurt.

“They don’t as compared, for example, to a punch, or a kick, or a push or a shove, but still absolutely they can cut deeply,” he says.

That’s why parents should help teach their children resilience.

“Resilience is bouncing back from adversity,” Hinduja explains.

The stronger a child’s self-image is, the less vulnerable he or she is to bullying, regardless of where it comes from.

“Everything hinges on the messages we tell ourselves and the beliefs we internalize about the adversity we face,” Hinduja explains.

A national survey of 1,000 kids shows those who don’t have much resilience act out themselves when they’re bullied.

Those with a stronger self-image were able to report the bully or at least block them online.

“They didn’t really internalize the harm and it didn’t really markedly affect their ability to learn and feel safe in school,” Hinduja says.

Quinton entered a poetry contest, “Do the Write Thing Challenge,” to share how much it hurts to be bullied.

There were 28,000 entries, and Quinton’s won! He was flown to a national conference in Washington, D.C.

“You don’t have to be friends with everybody, but you do have to be a friend to everybody,” Quinton says.

That’s a message we can all take to heart.

Ironically, Quinton is now best friends with his former bully. He says people have to realize that bullies for the most part are insecure, and that’s why they do what they do. He suggests trying to see it from the other side and treating people the way you want to be treated.

To learn more about stopping cyberbullying, visit



REPORT #2515

BULLYING: Bullying is equated to the concept of harassment, which is a form of unprovoked aggression often directed repeatedly toward another individual or group of individuals who are not able to defend themselves in the actual situation. The National Crime Victimization Survey has been tracking bullying through its nationally representative School Crime Supplement since 1989. In the 2014-2015 school year, 20.8% (over 5 million youth ages 12-18) reported that they had been bullied in school. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance found that 20.2% of students in grades 9-12 reported that they were bullied at school over the last year. A number of reasons why people bully others include but aren’t limited to: cultural issues, social issues, family issues, or just the mere fact of having power and wanting to wield it in a noticeable way.

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CYBERBULLYING: Cyberbullying is defined as willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. The use of electronic devices is what differentiates cyberbullying from traditional bullying. Cyberbullying is when someone repeatedly makes fun of another person online or repeatedly picks on another person through e-mail or text message or when someone posts something online about another person that they don’t like. Some examples of cyberbullying are hurtful comments, threats, rumors, pictures, or videos posted or circulated online. A 2010 study done at Indiana State University showed that out of 439 college student participants, 38% of college students knew someone who had been cyberbullied, 21.9% had been cyberbullied, and 8.6% had been cyberbullying someone else.

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RESILIENCE: Resilience is bouncing back from adversity. The more kids can focus on their own strengths and assets, the better they will be able to handle any situation and overcome it. Only a few inquiries have actually explored the relationship between bullying and resilience. A study in Scotland involving 3136 youth aged 12-14 indicated that bullied youth with higher self-esteem, more social connectedness, and better family relationships demonstrated both emotional resilience (less depressed than expected), and behavioral resilience (less delinquent than expected). Researchers at the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) conducted a national survey of one thousand kids. According to Samer Hinduja, Ph.D, Professor of Criminology & Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center at FAU, they found that those with a lower level of resilience when bullied tended to act out with self harm or interpersonal harm or violence or delinquency. Research also showed that those with a higher level of resilience reported the bully or blocked them online. Hinduja says, “They didn’t really internalize the harm and it didn’t really markedly affect their ability to learn and feel safe in school.” Results of the study show resilience is a powerful protective factor, both in preventing experience with bullying and diminishing its effect. Research found resilience can be distilled into the notion that children with higher levels of resilience (produced by intrinsic and extrinsic protective strengths in their personal profiles) are not only bullied less often but are less negatively impacted in their attitudes and actions than their less equipped peers when faced with this type of victimization.