I am an effect of bullying. I experienced during school and after school bullying from the time I was about 7 to the age of 16. This bullying occurred in one form or another at every school I attended from grammar school through high school. The consequences of said bullying have lasted well into my adult years. I have trouble trusting another’s intentions, I feel that people are out to hurt me for no logical reason, I suffer panic attacks and fear when in a group of people I do not know, and, consequently, I have very few friends among other effects. Following is some information I found at www.stopbullying.gov . I find it disturbing that the trend has grown to such a proportion that there is actually a governmental website devoted to the subject. When I was experiencing bullying growing up it was literally thought of as something to be endured and wasn’t very important in terms of mental and physical health. While reading some of the material I located, I was mildly surprised to find myself thinking back to those days, and identifying with much of what had been written.
Bullying is “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or a perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.”
In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:
- An imbalance of power: Kids who bully use their power ~ such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity ~ to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
- Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone verbally or physically, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. (I have experienced all of these at some point in time).
Types Of Bullying
- Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:
- Inappropriate sexual comments
- Threatening to cause harm
- Social bullying, sometimes called relational bullying, involves:
- Leaving someone out on purpose
- Telling other children not to be friends with someone
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Embarrassing someone in public
- Physical bullying involves hurting a person or possessions including:
- Taking or breaking a person’s things
- Making mean or rude hand gestures
Where And When Bullying Happens
It can occur either during or after school hours. While most reported bullying occurs within the school building, a significant portion occurs in places like the playground or on the bus. It happens on the way to or from school, in the neighborhood, or (now) on the Internet.
Frequency Of Bullying
There are two sources of federally collected data on youth bullying:
- The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (the CDC) indicates that, nationwide, about 20% of students grades 9-12 experienced bullying.
- The 2008-2009 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) found that, nationwide, about 28% of students grades 6-12 experienced bullying.
On average, that is approximately %25 of kids aged 11-17 that have reported bullying. I would like to emphasize the word “reported”. These statistics are a) out of date, and b) the students who have reported bullying, and does not include those who do not tell anyone. That means that, in reality, the number of students being bullied may be higher, and I suspect it is. A number of students may not report bullying for fear of retaliation or simply out of shame. These students are not captured by these studies.
Effects Of Bullying
The effects of bullying both by those being bullied and those who bully others have been linked to many negative outcomes including but not limited to impacts on mental and physical health, substance use and abuse, and suicide. An interesting study conducted by the National Institute for Mental Health highlights some of the long lasting effects of bullying. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2013/bullying-exerts-psychiatric-effects-into-adulthood.shtml
Kids Who Are Bullied
Students who experience bullying at school, after school, in their neighborhoods, or by technological means such as the Internet or texts on their phones are more likely to experience:
- Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy or anhedonia, and I would add low self-esteem and self-worth.
- Health complaints such as frequent headaches and stomachaches, or being too sick to go to school
- Decreased academic achievement and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip or drop out of school.
A very small proportion of students who are bullied may react in extremely violent ways. In 12 of 15 school shootings in the 1990′s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.
Kids Who Bully Others
Students who are bullies can also continue to engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood. They are more likely to:
- Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and into adulthood
- Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school
- Engage in early sexual activity (the same could be said for the kids being bullied as a way of “belonging”)
- Have criminal records and traffic citations as adults
- Be abusive in romantic or intimate relationships as adults
Children who witness bullying tend to be more likely to:
- Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs
- Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
- Miss or skip school
The Relationship Between Bullying And Suicide
The media often link suicide and bullying. However, most kids that are experiencing bullying do not have thoughts of suicide or engage in suicidal behavior.
Although they are at risk of suicide, other factors must be considered. Depression, problems at home and a history of trauma tend to be better indicators than bullying alone or when combined with bullying. Additionally, specific groups are more at risk for suicide, including American Indian and Alaskan Native, Asian American, and LCBT youth. The risk is highest when these groups of students are not supported by family, peer groups and schools. Bullying simply makes the problem worse.
Warning Signs And Risk Factors
There are many warning signs that a child is being affected by bullying ~ either being bullied or bullying others. Recognizing these warning signs is often the first step in stopping the behavior. Since not all children will report problems with bullying, it is important to talk to kids who are displaying symptoms. Talking to kids can help identify the root of the problem.
Signs A Child Is Being Bullied
First of all, look for changes in the child’s behavior, but also be aware that not all kids will display warning signs. The warning signs include:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches, stomach aches, feeling ill, or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits ~ not eating, or binge eating
- Difficulty sleeping, sleeping too much, or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- A sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feeling helpless or decreased self-esteem/self-worth
- Self-destructive behaviors ~ running away, harming themselves, or suicidal ideation or talking about suicide
If you notice these any of these warning signs, do not ignore them. Get help right away.
Signs A Child Is Bullying Others
- Getting into physical and/or verbal fights
- Having friends who bully others
- Are increasingly aggressive
- Are frequently in trouble at school ~ detention and/or being called to principal’s office
- Having unexplained extra money or new belongings
- Blaming others for their problems
- Will not accept responsibility for their actions
- Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
Why Children Don’t Ask For Help
Statistics from the 2008-2009 School Crime Supplement (see above for reporting agencies) show that only about 1 out of 3 bullying cases is reported to an adult. There are many reasons why kids don’t talk:
- Kids want to handle it on their own in order to regain a sense of control or they may fear being seen as weak or a “tattle-tale”
- They may fear backlash from their bullies (this is a very real concern)
- Bullying is a humiliating experience, and kids may not want adults to know what is happening. They also may fear being punished and/or judged for being “weak”
- They already feel socially isolated and like nobody can or will understand
- Kids may fear being rejected by their peers; friends can help protect kids from being bullied and they do not want to lose this protection
There is no single variable that puts one child at risk for bullying over another. It is a complex mixture of environment, group identification, and others. In general, kids who are at risk of being bullied have one or more of the following:
- Are perceived as different than their peers such as being over or underweight, not having the latest cool toy or clothes, being new to school among others
- Are perceived as weak and unable to defend themselves
- Are depressed, nervous or anxious, and/or have low self-esteem
- Are less popular than others and have few friends, are socially isolated
- Do not get along well with other kids, are perceived as annoying or provoking
These are only indicators that a child may be bullied. They may or may not experience bullying as a result of these risk factors.
Children More Likely To Bully Others
In general, there are two types of kids who bully others ~ some are well connected to their peers, have social power, or like to dominate others, and some are isolated from their peer group and may be depressed (in children, depression can be expressed as aggression) or anxious, be less involved in school, or not identify with the feelings of others. They also have other existing factors such as:
- Aggressive or easily frustrated
- Have less parental involvement or problems at home
- Have difficulty following rules
- View violence in a positive light
- Have friends who are bullies
Remember that bullies do not need to be bigger or stronger than those they bully. The ability to bully others comes from a real or perceived power imbalance which can come from a number of sources: popularity, strength, cognitive ability, etc. Children who bully also may have a combination of these factors.
Who Is At Risk?
Bullying can happen anywhere, but depending on the environment, some groups of kids may be more at risk. No single factor puts a student or child at risk for bullying or for being bullied by others. The behavior can happen anywhere ~ cities, suburbs, and rural towns. What does seem to increase risk is the environment and/or belonging to certain groups such as ~ LGBT youth, disabled (mentally or developmentally) youth, and socially isolated youth. Recognizing the many warning signs that a child is bullying others or is being bullied is often the first step in taking action against bullying. Not all children will report being bullied or that they themselves are bullying others. Bullying affects everyone involved. There are many negative outcomes of being bullied, being the one doing the bullying, or simply observing bullying behavior. These outcomes may include depression, anxiety issues, substance abuse and suicide. This is why it is important to monitor kids, and ask them if bullying or something else is wrong.