Let's talk about bullying. We are all aware that bullying is a problem, right? Bullying has been happening ever since schools for children were established, and unfortunately, it doesn't seem to get any better with time. Statistics tell us that bullying is continuing to be a serious problem in the education system, with 20 percent of students ages 12 to 18 reporting having been bullied before, and another 70 percent admitting having witnessed bullying in school.
It's safe to say bullying is a problem that needs more attention and action, but many people still underestimate the impact bullying can have on children's mental health. We are here to tell you that bullying is not something to take lightly. Bullying can and has caused children to take their own life. No child should have to “suck it up”, “get over it”, or “be a man” when it comes to being harassed by their peers. If your child is being bullied or is a bully themselves, you need to address the problem immediately. Below we have provided a detailed fact sheet about bullying.What is Bullying?
Bullying is aggressive, abusive behavior that school aged children repeatedly inflict upon their peers. It also involves a power imbalance between the two individuals. This imbalance can come in forms that include physical size, popularity, and knowledge of embarrassing information, among other things.What Forms of Bullying are There?
Bullying comes three forms: physical, verbal and social. Physical bullying involves hurting someone or harming their possessions. Verbal bullying involves saying, writing, or spreading mean or false comments. Social bullying consists of damaging a child's reputation and relationships among their peers in person or online, usually through social media. Online bullying is also known as cyberbullying.
Examples of physical bullying include:
- Making rude hand gestures
- Breaking one's items
Examples of verbal bullying include:
- Threatening harm
Examples of social bullying include:
- Excluding someone on purpose
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Publicly embarrassing someone
- Making mean or false posts about someone online
- Posting embarrassing or personal photos of someone online
Bullied children tend to be alienated from their peers and can experience severe mental health issues. Unfortunately, these characteristics make them easy targets for bullies. Signs that your child might be vulnerable to bullying include:
- Seen as “different” from their classmates. This includes being overweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, or being the new kid at school.
- Being part of an oppressed group including people of color, LGBTQ, and people with disabilities
- Seen as weak or defenseless
- Have depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem
- Is less popular than other peers and has few friends
- Does not get along with others, perceived as annoying, or antagonize others for attention
Children who are likely to be bullies have characteristics that indicate aggressive behavior. Bullies may also experience personal issues in their own life, and their bullying is a way for them to act out. These characteristics include, but are not limited to:
- Being aggressive
- Being easily frustrated
- Having little parental involvement in their life or issues at home
- Thinking negatively about others
- Not following rules
- Having friends are bullies themselves
Bullying can take place before, during, or after school hours. While frequently reported on school grounds, it can also happen on the bus or outside of school, including online. According to a Johns Hopkins study, over 29 percent of bullying took place in the classroom, 29 percent in hallways or lockers, around 23 percent in the cafeteria, around 20 percent in gym class, around 12 percent in the bathroom, and 6.2 percent on the playground.What Statistics are There on Bullying?
Being bullied is not uncommon for children to experience. Statistics indicate that around 1 in 5 children reported being bullying. Here's some quick facts:
- The National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice's 2017 School Crime Supplement reports that around 20 percent of students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied.
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System reports that 19 percent of high school students experienced bullying on school grounds within 12 months prior to being surveyed.
Bullying others is also not uncommon:
- About 30 percent of children admitted to having bullied someone before.
- Around 70 percent of children have witnessed bullying in school
Frequency of being bullied:
- According to a Johns Hopkins study, around 40 percent of students reported being involved in bullying as either the bully or the bullied at least two or more times a month. Around 23 percent reported being bullied, 8 percent reported being the bully, and around 9 percent reported being both the bully and the bullied.
Changes, either physical or behavioral, in your child may indicate that they are being bullied. However, some bullied children may not show any warning signs. Some children are good at hiding their problems away from their parents, often due to embarrassment or shame.
These signs generally include:
- Unexplained injuries
- Missing items such as clothing, electronics, or money
- Eating habit changes
- Sleeping difficulties or recurring nightmares
- Decrease in self-esteem
- Self-destructive or even suicidal behavior
There are possible warning signs that may indicate that your child is bullying others:
- Frequently getting into fights, physical or verbal, with their peers
- Having friends who bully others
- Increasingly aggressive behavior
- Frequently sent to either the principal's office or detention
- Having extra money or new belongings from a questionable source
- Failure to accept responsibility for their actions
Bullying negatively impacts everyone, whether one is doing the bullying, being bullied, or witnessing the bullying.
Children who are bullied experience negative impacts to their physical and mental health. They may experience depression, anxiety, or other mood or mental health problems. Their eating patterns may be affected, either by eating too much or too little. A bullied child may also lose interest in activities they generally enjoyed. Being bullied can also have an adverse impact on their schoolwork.
Unfortunately, there have been too many stories of children and teens taking their own lives due to the pressure caused by bullying and harassment. Bullying also tends to have a permanent impact on a child as they grow. The problems that developed due to being bullied can linger as a child grows older and can cause them to have ongoing issues with their self-esteem and self-worth. This type of harassment on children is no joke, it can easily turn into a life or death situation.How can I Prevent Bullying?
There are several measures you can take to prevent bullying from happening. They involve speaking to your child and being directly involved in their lives. These measures include:
- Have your child understand bullying and its impact on others. Tell them about what it is, and how they can stand up to it in an appropriate manner. Tell them the long-term effects of bullying on others. Telling them about your first-hand experience with bullying can give them some perspective.
- Check-in with your child as often as you can. Ask them about what happened in their daily life beyond the classroom. Knowing their life on the playground and the cafeteria is just as important as knowing their life in the classroom. Encourage your child to make friends and understand what concerns they may have.
- Encouraging your child to do activities that they enjoy can be a great way to protect them from bullying. This includes playing sports, playing in the school band, or joining a youth club. It will boost their confidence, help them make friends, and discourage your child from undesirable behavior.
- Set a good example to your child by treating others with kindness, respect, and empathy. Your child will notice how you interact with others and manage stress. How you act affects how they will act.
There are measures you can take if your child experiences bullying:
- Listen to your child as it lets them know that someone cares.
- Do not blame them for bullying inflicted upon them. Let them know that any provoking they may have done does not warrant such behavior inflicted upon them.
- Be aware that your child may not want to share what has happened. Consider having them see a professional such as a school counselor or a mental health professional.
- Give advice on their course of action. This involves brainstorming ideas of how to react to future bullying.
- Do not tell your child to ignore it. Ignoring bullying could escalate future situations.
- Tell your child not to fight back. They could risk getting suspended or expelled.
- Contact the school immediately. School authorities act as a mediator and have a responsibility to resolve bullying situations. A school guidance counselor may be able to guide the situation in a positive direction.
How can I respond to bullying on the spot?
- If you are directly witnessing your child being bullied, intervene immediately. You may also find another adult for help as well. Separate the children involved, and make sure that everyone is safe. Stay calm and reassure the bullied child that everything is going to be okay. Make sure to treat everyone with respect, as it can set an example to a bully what kind of behavior one must conduct themselves in.
- When witnessing bullying, do not ignore it. Do not assume that children can work it out amongst themselves. Never have the children discuss the situation in public. Keep them separated, and only speak to them privately about the situation. Do not have children apologize or patch things up right on the spot.
- If the situation is severe enough, you might need to seek out the police or medical attention. However, only do so if there is a weapon involved, hate-motivated violence, bodily harm, and sexual abuse.
Bullying does not have to take place in person, it can happen through the computer or your child's phones. This is known as “cyberbullying.” It can occur through texts, email, or social media such as Facebook or Instagram. Bullies can send harassing and threatening messages through these platforms. They may even share or post mean, untrue, embarrassing, and private statements about others. If you would like to read more about cyberbullying, we provide a comprehensive guide on it.Outlook
The biggest thing to take away from this article is that bullying is a serious matter that can have devastating consequences and long-lasting emotional effects. If your child is being bullied or you know your child is acting like a bully, the situation needs to be addressed immediately before someone ends up getting really hurt. Bullying can escalate to a dangerous problem faster than you think, and most importantly, no child deserves to suffer from being harassed by their peers.Sources & Additional Studies
Zych, I., Farrington, D. P., & Ttofi, M. M. (2019). Protective factors against bullying and cyberbullying: A systematic review of meta-analyses. Aggression and violent behavior, 45, 4-19.
Shiakou, M., Stella, H., & Georgia, Y. (2019). Understanding bullying through the eyes of children. International journal on school climate and violence prevention, 3(1), 157-170.
Ahmed, E., & Braithwaite, J. (2019, February). Bullying and victimization: Evidence based interventions. The Conference Committee.
Martínez, I., Murgui, S., García, O. F., & García, F. (2019). Parenting in the digital era: Protective and risk parenting styles for traditional bullying and cyberbullying victimization. Computers in Human Behavior, 90, 84-92.