When you think of “bullying,” what comes to mind?
Many people think of the common displays portrayed in movies and TV shows, where a bigger kid (backed by a gang of other kids) shoves around the smaller children, stealing both their lunch money and their dignity. While these examples unfortunately do play out in real life as well as the movies, they are certainly not the only type of bullying that takes place in schools throughout our country.
In my experience as an online mental health counselor, I have worked with multiple victims of bullying. The emotional and psychological challenges they experience as a result of bullying are truly tragic. In order to help end the stigma and the silence, I am using this blog post to raise awareness about bullying and offer some simple, concrete advice for how you can help put an end to this horrible social act.
Types Of Bullying
Bullying can manifest in countless different ways. Some common examples include:
- Emotional and social bullying: spreading rumors, vicious teasing, excluding someone from activities
- Verbal bullying: calling names, making hurtful comments
- Physical bullying: hitting, shoving, tripping
- Cyberbullying: creating fake social media profiles, circulating embarrassing photos, sending mean and hurtful comments over text, email, or social media
The Truth About Bullying
Though we might try to convince ourselves otherwise, bullying is alarmingly common in our society, especially in our schools. According to PACER.org, almost 1 out of every 4 students (22%) report being bullied at some point during the school year. What’s worse, well over half the students who experience bullying (64%) do not to report the incident(s).
Bullying makes us uncomfortable. It’s hard to watch someone be subjected to bullying, even when we aren’t closely connected to the victim. Many people look away when they witness someone being bullied, perhaps sending out a silent prayer of gratitude that they aren’t today’s victim. Many people are afraid that intervening will not stop the bullying, and that it will simply cause the bully to turn his/her wrath on them instead. However, another statistic on PACER’s website reveals that more than half of bullying incidents (57%) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the victim. This success rate is encouraging, but it makes it all the more tragic that more people are not brave enough to speak up for the victim.
Bullying And Suicide
In my blog about suicide warning signs, I discussed the fact that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In that particular post, however, I neglected to include the fact that suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people (source). What’s worse, for every suicide actually committed by one of today’s youth, there are at least one hundred failed attempts by other young people.
BullyingStatistics.org reveals several other eye-opening statistics about bullying and the impact it has on today’s youth:
- Victims of bullying are 2-9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.
- At least half of teen suicides are related to bullying.
- Nearly 30% of students are involved in bullying, either as victims or bullies themselves.
- Across the nation, approximately 160,000 students stay home from school every day because they are afraid of being victimized by bullies.
- Engage with kids. Most children are scared to speak up about being bullied for fear of the consequences the bullies might inflict. If you want children to speak to you about their experiences, you have to invest the time required to build their trust.
- If you witness bullying, intervene. Allowing bullying to continue leads to all of the issues we have just discussed. If you witness a child (or anyone else) being bullied, intervene. Model the respectful behavior the bully should display, and show the victim that he/she is not alone.
- Encourage bystanders to be more than bystanders. It’s one thing for adults to step in and interrupt bullying taking place between students – it’s another thing entirely for students to face their peers. As the adult, it is up to you to encourage the youth to step in and help put an end to bullying. Make sure they know their efforts will be reinforced and supported.
- Don’t write bullies off. More often than not, bullying behavior is the outward expression of underlying issues. The bullies may have difficult home lives, unloving parents, or underlying emotional or psychological issues. Empowering victims to stand up for themselves is only half the battle – you must also reach out to the bullies and offer gentle, non-judgmental assistance.
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?