Bullying is likely to occur wherever large numbers of children congregate, and in most cases, this means the school (or lately, in cyberspace). It also tends to thrive wherever there is the least amount of structure and adult supervision. (Seale, 2004; Smith, 2010) This tends to make common areas in and around the school prime spots for bullying, and it tends to occur before and after school or during intermission periods.
Bullying specialist Malcolm Smith, Ph.D., writes that “in schools, bullying often occurs in bathrooms, playgrounds, lunch rooms and right after school, on the bus and on the playground. In communities it can happen anywhere where children and teens aren’t supervised, including cyberspace, but it is more likely to occur at school than anywhere else.” (Smith, 2010, p. 6) Another specialist, Allison Seale, reports a similar finding: “Most incidents tend to occur on the playground, in bathrooms, locker rooms, cafeterias, hallways, at bus stops and on the school bus.” (Seale, 2004, p. 10)
Where kids are most likely to be bullied
In confidential surveys, children say the rides on the bus to and from school are often the periods of greatest vulnerability for them. There’s only so much supervision that one adult can provide while driving a bus, and bus drivers are not teachers. They often have lackluster skills when it comes to dealing with kids, and many don’t consider it their job to do so. Older kids and adolescents tend to view drivers the same way: as someone with no authority over them; someone akin to a janitor. This tends to make the bus rides to and from school an environment where anything goes, and where bullying commonly takes place.
At school, adolescents indicate that locker rooms are a major area where bullying and hazing takes place. (Garbarino & deLara, 2002) The hallways are another place where bullying thrives. (Astor, Meyer & Behre, 1999) One 16-year-old boy comments that “Most of the time the teachers are in their classrooms, so they are not really in the halls – and that’s where everything takes place. So they don’t find out.” (Garbarino & deLara, 2002, p. 35) Another 15-year-old boy says “I don’t like going to the bathrooms. I go in there only when absolutely necessary. Otherwise you learn to just wait until you get home. You have to always be looking over your shoulder. The locker rooms are the same way. My brother never used the bathrooms here in his whole four years of high school.” (ibid, p. 100)
The cafeteria may be another gauntlet that children have to navigate during their day. It is often poorly supervised and rife with cliques. Those who are being bullied have to worry about running into their aggressors or finding an appropriate spot to sit.
Bullying occurs in every community and every society
Bullying is something that transcends every ethnic and cultural boundary. As Smith (2010, p. 6) writes: “Bullying happens just as often in rural schools as it does urban schools, affects affluent children as well as those living in poverty, and affects children of every race and ethnicity.” It occurs to some degree in every culture around the world, and no family is immune from its effects. Bullying tends to become a larger problem in bigger schools (500+ students), because it’s easy for victims to get lost amongst the mix, but it happens just about anywhere youth congregate.
Adults can even wind up promoting bullying in the midst of their efforts to prevent it. Gloucester Township in New Jersey had to pay $195,000 to settle a lawsuit over an incident where a police officer overturned a boy’s desk during a classroom presentation on bullying. The child suffered burses and emotional trauma, and subsequently faced teasing by fellow students that was “so harsh that (the child) had to switch to another school. (USA Today, 3-3-2016, p 4A) Who knows what this officer was thinking, but it’s a perfect example of how adults can contribute to the problem.