By Clint Fletcher
Kids and teenagers are back in school, meaning homework, carpool, school lunches, football game—and bullying. The problem has gained more attention in recent years, but a significant portion of children and teens are still affected despite the spotlight. Therefore, there should be more critical consequences of bullying.
According to the most recent School Crime Supplement by the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice, about 20% of American students between 12 to 18 experience some form of bullying. Additionally, the latest Youth Behavior Assessment from the CDC states that 19% of high school students report being bullied within one year of the survey.
Bullying can be physical, verbal, relational, or even online, and it isn’t always easy for parents to spot. There are many long-term adverse effects of bullying. so parents and kids must address the problem together in a healthy, positive way.
The “Why” Behind Bullying
The causes of bullying can be incredibly layered and complex, but they all share a similar theme: bullying is almost always behavior that’s learned in response to stresses in the bully’s world. While most bullies can give the appearance of having confidence, the chances are strong that whatever they’re doing is driven by their fears, insecurities, and issues.
Common Causes for Bullying
- Feeling powerless in their own lives
- The need to be in control
- Someone else is bullying them
- Jealousy of the person they’re bullying
- Lack of understanding or empathy
- Looking for attention
- Their family is dysfunctional
- Bullying can be rewarding for them
- They don’t care how others feel
- They can’t regulate their emotions
The Impact of Bullying
We’ve established that bullying is still quite common in US schools, with roughly one in five students saying they’ve been bullied. However, bullying doesn’t just affect the one being picked on. According to stopbullying.gov, more than 70% of young people say they’ve witnessed bullying in schools.
In one large study, roughly 49% of children in grades 4-12 reported being bullied at least once a month, and 40.6% of students reported involvement in bullying. Out of that group, 23.2% were bullied, while approximately 30% of the students surveyed admitted to bullying others.
Bullying can take many forms. Name-calling tops the list at 44.2%, followed by teasing at 43.3%, spreading rumors or lies at 36.3%, and physical pushing/shoving at 32.4%. The most troubling stat of all might be that only 20-30% of bullied students tell an adult what’s going on. It’s not surprising that most bullying occurs in school, on school grounds, and the school bus.
Classrooms are the most common setting. Cyberbullying is also becoming more of an issue, with 14.9% of high school students reporting online or text bullying within 12 months.
Mental Health and Bullying
It can be challenging for researchers to draw a direct line from bullying to adverse long-term effects. Still, there is a direct correlation between mental health and bullying. One study suggests children who are victims of bullying are more likely to develop anxiety and depression disorders. They also may be at higher risk for health problems like colds, headaches, stomachaches, and sleeping problems. They may even be more likely to take up smoking. Bullied kids may also be more likely to self-harm or have suicidal thoughts in adolescence.
In another five-decade study looking into the health outcomes of adults who were victims of bullying as kids, British researchers discovered that those frequently bullied were more likely to have poor social, health, and economic outcomes in life decades later.
Psychological Effects of Bullying
- Depression or sadness
- Higher risk of physical illness
- Changes in sleep
- Changes in eating patterns
- Decreased academic achievement
- Suicidal thoughts
(source: stopbullying.gov and nih.gov)
How to Deal with a Bully
Learning how to deal with a bully can be challenging. Still, there are various ways to act more intelligently if you find yourself in these situations.
Most bullies know they don’t deserve your respect. They lose their power when you remain confident and don’t back down. Speak to a bully with a strong, firm, and courteous demeanor. Your confidence and self-assurance will typically win them over. Bullies control their victims by making them feel alone and powerless. Bullied people should maintain close connections with supportive friends to reclaim their power.
When you stand up to a bully, you want to clarify that you won’t be victimized. If you pose a challenge, you’ll give the bully the sense of attention and power they’re seeking. Using simple, assertive, and unemotional language will ensure they don’t take advantage of you.
A bully’s ultimate goal is to get under your skin. You shouldn’t let your emotions get the best of you when you face a bully. Remain polite but set firm limits. Practicing your responses, so you’re prepared if the situation arises again will allow you to respond swiftly while protecting your emotions.
Bullying often starts in a mild form and worsens the more prolonged the bully has power over their victim. If the bully doesn’t think you’ll stand up for yourself or tell an adult, the aggression will worsen. Therefore, it’s essential to act quickly and consistently in the face of a bully.
Striking while the iron is hot isn’t the case for dealing with a bully. It’s better to take a step back and not exchange in the heat of the moment. You often find solutions when you have a cooler head. The situation might even sort itself out in the meantime.
How to Proactively Approach Bullying
You know the facts now, but what can you do about bullying? It all comes down to communication. According to experts, kids first need to understand what bullying is, why it’s wrong, and why they should come forward to an adult when it occurs. After that, the line of communication needs to remain open between parents and children. Check in with your kids as often as you can. Listen, become familiar with their friends, and ask questions about school.
Being prepared is critical. Strategize with your kids and develop a plan for how to deal with a bully if an adult isn’t near. Suggest they try to disarm the bully with humor, tell them to “stop” with confidence, grab a safe friend or peer nearby, or simply walk away if all else fails. Having a plan will make them feel more prepared.
There are many excellent resources out there to help combat bullying. Be Strong is a fantastic app for smartphones with a student-led approach to bullying for all ages. They have a student state representative program, an eight-week resilience program, and one-touch buttons to a suicide lifeline, text line, and trusted friends alert.