By John Hand –
Every TV show or movie that depicts the trials and tribulations of growing up features a bully. Bullying is a relatable experience for everyone. It may be a rite of passing for adolescents and teenagers.
Well, it was a rite of passing. It was a miserable one for many who’s potentially devasting consequences that society is recently coming to grips.
The Centers for Disease Control defines bullying as “any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners. It involves an observed or perceived power imbalance, and repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated.”
The CDC reports that one in five high school students experienced bullying during school. The likelihood of bullying is higher for marginalized groups of students. For example, 40 percent of students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual experienced bullying, according to the CDC. In contrast, 22 percent of heterosexual students experienced bullying, while 30 percent of female high school students and 19 percent of male students have similar situations.
The amount of bullying in schools also appears to be on the rise. The Cyber Bully Researcher Center reports that students who reported bullying in school rose from 38 percent in 2016 to over 50 percent in 2019.
Bullying may be on the rise for many reasons, including social media. It can come in many forms, including physical, verbal, relational and damaged property.
Why does someone become a bully? There are lots of reasons. But one of the more common is that the bully feels low self-esteem. GoStudent.com also notes that bullies have often bullied themselves or don’t even realize that they are torturing other students. Regardless of the reason, this pattern of abuse can have lasting effects on everyone involved.
In extreme cases, bully victims have committed suicide. BullyStatistics.com reports that victims are two to nine times more likely to commit suicide than those students who escaped abuse. The organization also notes that 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and seven percent have attempted it, although bullying may not be specifically involved in all these incidents.
This abuse can lead to other consequences as well for victims. It can result in depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, self-harming behavior (especially for girls), drug use and dependence and even violent crimes, according to StopBullying.gov.
Given the devasting potential of bullying, social support organizations warn it is essential for parents to identify if their child is experiencing bullying and help teach them to prevent the abuse.
Warning signs include physical markings, missing possessions and anxiousness. Failure to act at a minimum can lead to depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping and bad academic performance.
Building self-confidence in a bullied child—or any child for that matter—is essential. So is parent-awareness and education. Communication is the first step if a parent suspects their child may experience bullying. StopBullying advises reassuring the student and helping the parent determine if there is bullying and, if so, what kind. Put children into activities and social settings where they feel safe and can thrive. It will help build their self-esteem. Contact school officials, especially if bullying is extreme or frequent. Work with the school and coordinate efforts to protect the child and mitigate bullying.
The rise in bullying may be due to increased student engagement on social media, which has led to an increase in cyberbullying. It is an epidemic. A study by Michigan State University noted that 60 percent of teenage girls and 59 percent of teenage boys have engaged in cyberbullying. It can include anything from name-calling to spreading false rumors, physical threats or distributing unsolicited explicit images.
Cyberbullying has become more volatile because of access to technology and the ability to post or chat on social media without face-to-face contact, the Michigan team explained. The parent, therefore, needs to monitor what their child is doing online. They also need to block any bully on social media and help their children ignore negative comments and or discuss how these comments make them feel.
Organizations like StopBullying.gov, GoStudent.com and Cyber Bullying Research offer links and guidance on how parents can protect their children. Schools today can better identify bullying and address the problem than ever before.
Bullying, however, is not likely to disappear. It is part of the social fabric and may even expand. The good news is that there is greater awareness of the problem and resources to help students and their parents deal with it.