October is Bullying Prevention Month and October 13th is also National Stop Bullying Day.
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Education released the first federal definition of bullying. The definition includes three core elements: unwanted aggressive behavior, observed or perceived power imbalance, repetition or high likelihood of repetition of bullying behaviors.
Bullying has evolved over the decades. What was once considered harmless name calling and pushing and shoving someone on the playground has now progressed into relentless torment over the social media and text messaging apps, where those partaking in the bullying can hide behind the anonymity of the internet. We know now that bullying of any kind is far from harmless. Some people are fortunate to be able to navigate their school years unscathed by the torment of bullying. Those who are not, may suffer long-term emotional distress from the experiences which can result in low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Victims of bullying may also begin to avoid social situations and attending school where a lot of the bullying may be occurring. While those who are being bullied can suffer from mental health issues as a result of bullying, it is also important to note that research has shown that those who bully others are at a higher risk of having problems in school, substance abuse, and aggressive behavior that can carry over into adulthood. Those who are not the bully or the victim of bullying but are witness to this can also be impacted. Children or teens who are bystanders to bullying experience anxiety and depression even if they are not the target. Pressure to participate in bullying, fear of retaliation if they try to help a victim, or guilt of not helping someone in need can also cause severe emotional distress.
Every U.S. state requires schools to implement bullying prevention programs however, the most recent data according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2019, shows that in the United States, 19.5% of High School students reported being bullied with that percentage being made up of 23.6% female students and 15.4% male students. These numbers are high but are slightly more concerning for the youth in Alabama. Nearly 21% of High School students in Alabama reported being bullied at school with 25.4% being female, and 16.1% being male. It was also reported that electronic bullying also referred to as Cyber Bullying which includes being bullied through texting, Instagram, Facebook, or other social media, affected 16.1% of Alabama High School students; 21.3% being female and 10.9% being male.
Additional data from the YRBSS and Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2019 (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice) show the various places in their school and the percentage of students aged 12-18 who have experienced bullying in those locations:
o Hallway or stairwell (43.4%)
o Classroom (42.1%)
o Cafeteria (26.8%)
o Outside on school grounds (21.9%)
o Online or text (15.3%)
o Bathroom or locker room (12.1%)
o Somewhere else in the school building (2.1%)
An alarmingly low 46% of students ages 12-18 who were bullied during the school year notified an adult at school about the bullying.
Bullying is a risk factor for depression and suicidal ideation. Children and teens who bully others, are victims of bullying, or both, are more likely to think about or attempt suicide than those who are not involved in bullying. Addressing bullying and related mental health concerns with adolescents early can help prevent harmful negative experiences and keep our youth moving forward in a positive and productive way be it in school, with friends, and when it comes to promoting positive personal development. If you feel that your child is showing symptoms of depression or anxiety that may be caused by their experience as a victim of bullying, it is important to ask questions and learn more about what is going on. Children and teens tend to have a private social world that often flies under the radar of most parents and caregivers. Because of this, it may be easy to sometimes miss the signs. For parents, caregivers, teachers, or coaches, it is incredibly important for there to be an open line of communication that is welcoming, non-judgmental, and supportive as a way to encourage children and teens to discuss what is going on especially when they are experiencing or witnessing bullying.
Formore resources on bullying prevention and resources to help kids, teens, andadults respond to bullying, please visit the following websites: