If you're child is the target of a bully, you may not be more worried about how to put a stop to the situation than you are about the statistics. However, understanding a few numbers can arm you with the information you need to approach a teacher or principal about the situation your child faces.
Bullying by the Numbers
Do Something is a 2.5 million member organization that focuses on young people and changing the social scene for them. According to Do Something, more than 3.2 millions students face bullying each year. Even more concerning is the response of many teachers to the issue of bullying:
- Twenty-five percent of teachers don't see why bullying is a problem and will only step in four percent of the time when seeing a bullying situation.
- Every day, around 160,000 teenagers skip school to avoid being bullied.
- One out of every 10 students drop out of school because they are victims of bullying.
Do Something also reports that 67 percent of students feel that the school doesn't hear their concerns about bullying and does nothing to stop it.
Although all types of bullying are detrimental, modern technology has made it impossible for kids to escape bullying when they leave the school. Often, bullying follows the student home by continuing via social networks and texting.
Effects of Bullying
The parent of any teen will tell you that emotions are typically enhanced during the adolescent years. Some teens have a hard time seeing past today and realizing that they won't always be in a situation where they are bullied. Bullying Statistics states that there is a strong link between bullying and suicide. Pulling research from sources like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Yale University, the organization estimates:
- Victims of bullying are as much as nine times more likely to consider committing suicide.
- A British study discovered that half of the suicides among youth were somehow related to bullying.
- About 4,400 young people commit suicide each year, but many more attempt suicide.
Others will argue that suicide can't be blamed on bullying but on depression and other problems. Ultimately, no matter what the numbers are, common sense dictates that bullying doesn't help the situation with someone who may already be in a deep depression or feeling isolated.
According to Stop Bullying, which is a website ran by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children who are bullied experience many negative side effects. It is more likely that bullied children will have feelings of "sadness, loneliness and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy". Depression and anxiety is common in bullied kids.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 2007, researchers with the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Columbia University found that frequent bullying without intervention served as a major risk factor for depression in children. In addition, another study in 2013 by the same researchers reported that those children were at increased risk for suicide and depression even into adulthood.
Think that the bullies get off the hook? Not necessarily. There is a proven correlation between bullying and propensity for substance abuse. In a study conducted by Kisha Radliff, an assistant psychology professor at Ohio State University, teens who are bullies are much more likely to abuse substances, such as alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana.
Just as a comparison, out of the 75,000 students surveyed, the study found that 1.6 percent of middle school aged children not involved in bullying used marijuana, but 11.4 percent of children who bullied others reported using the substance. By the time the kids reached high school, 13.3 percent of those who were not bullies reported marijuana use, while 31.7 percent of bullies reported marijuana use.
In a released statement, Kisha Radliff said, "There is a relationship between experimenting with substances and engaging in bullying behavior."
Although not as widely researched, many therapists and parents believe that prolonged exposure to bullying could also result in:
- Poor performance in school: If a child does not feel safe in his environment, he is unlikely to focus on school work.
- Why people drop out of high school: Students can't face the daily torture of dealing with bullies.
- Health problems: Students who are bullied often experience anxiety and health problems. Studies are still be conducted in this area. Stress isn't healthy for anyone and students who are repeated victims of bullying are under extreme stress.
- Fear: Even if a child is not directly bullied, witnessing others being bullied can create fear. The child may be scared to go to school or scared the bullies will come after her next.
How to Stop Bullying
Ignoring a bully may be traditional advice, but it rarely works to stop the problem. In fact, just one approach rarely works. Instead, there should be multiple changes, including bullying awareness training in the schools and anti-bullying campaigns.
- Make sure teachers and school administrators are aware of the problem. Some schools are better at handling bullying than other schools, but if the school is not aware of the situation then they can't implement any policies that may already be in place.
- Ask the school counselor to serve as a mediator between the child and the bully. School counselors are trained and licensed professionals who can help with some of the emotional issues involved in bullying both for the child being bullied and the child doing the bullying.
- Block the bully on all social media and cell phones or disconnect from the Internet for a while to get away from the online bullying.
- Enlist the help of other students who are sympathetic to the bullied child's cause. Peer pressure can sometimes change a bullies attitude where school administration, teachers and parents cannot. A good friend or two telling Johnny the Bully to "cut it out" can work wonders.
- If the bullying gets physical and your child is harmed, you have the right to file a report with the local police department even if the school urges you not to. However, think this through carefully as the bully may face serious consequences. Have all other solutions been exhausted and you feel your child's personal safety is at risk? If so, then this can be another way to stop the bullying.
The Crisis Prevention Institute offers 10 ways to reduce bullying, including setting and enforcing clear rules and behavioral expectations.
There are many different ways to prevent bullying in the first place. Schools would be well served to talk to students more openly about bullying and the facts about how harmful bullying is to not only the person bullied, but to the bully and those who are simply bystanders. Schools should regularly hold assemblies with bully prevention training and host anti-bullying campaigns. Students should be encouraged to stand up for someone who is being bullied, tell a teacher or parent and report any other signs of bullying.
Finally, children should be encouraged to tell parents about bullying and to disengage from social media and electronics if necessary.
One of the keys to prevention is for students to feel free to report the situation. Only when everyone works together to stop bullying will the problem start to change.