Bullying has serious, long-term consequences for children or those who are bullied. It can lead to difficulty with schoolwork, friendships, and even self-esteem.
It’s important to talk to kids about the dangers of bullying and how to stop it on the spot if they see it happening. Here are some reasons we should do just that for bullying prevention.
1. It affects self-esteem
Even verbal bullying, which does not leave bruises or scrapes, can damage a person’s mental health. It can also impact relationships and make someone feel isolated and unwanted. Bullying can have a long-term impact and cause people to develop anxiety, depression, or even PTSD. It can also lead to problems such as alcohol and drug abuse, social withdrawal, and severe trust issues.
In the case of school-aged children, the impact of bullying is especially devastating. It can lead to a loss of self-worth and confidence and the development of depression or suicidal thoughts. It can also lead to low academic achievement and may even interfere with a student’s ability to concentrate.
The most effective way to help prevent bullying is to support a victim when they come forward. This includes making sure that they can find safety and that their concerns are taken seriously. It is also important to teach students how to speak up for themselves and be assertive in a bully’s presence. For example, if a student feels safe doing so, they should try to turn their back on the bully and speak to them with calm, direct language. They should also try to maintain eye contact while speaking, and they should not be afraid to ask the bully what they want.
If a student does not feel safe telling a teacher, coach, or counselor, they should reach out to a trusted adult outside of the school. This could be a parent, a friend, or a mental health professional. It is also a good idea to create a culture of positivity and connection in the classroom and facilitate opportunities for positive social reinforcement.
Finally, it is important to remember that the bully’s actions reflect their insecurities and unhappiness. This means that they will likely have to face consequences, but it is also vital to help them learn more effective ways of achieving their goals and feeling good about themselves. This can include teaching them coping skills and encouraging them to find activities that connect with their passions.
2. It hurts others
Bullying can take many forms, and it affects people of all ages and backgrounds. Regardless of how it takes shape, bullying is never acceptable and should be stopped immediately.
Kids who are bullied can feel overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious. As a result, they may act differently and have trouble in school. They are also at a higher risk of substance abuse and other negative behaviors.
If a student is struggling to cope with being bullied, a mental health professional can help. A psychologist can teach students how to develop resiliency and confidence so they are less likely to be negatively affected by bullying.
Students who are victims of bullying can be more likely to drop out of school or have difficulty finding a job. They can also struggle with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A therapist can help a victim of bullying deal with their feelings so they do not become overwhelmed and make unhealthy choices.
Parents and teachers can help their children avoid becoming bullies by teaching them healthy coping skills. They can also help them find ways to be more social and increase their friendship circle. They can also provide extracurricular activities that allow kids to interact with others, such as youth or religious groups and clubs. They can also encourage them to be more assertive and practice empowering body language, such as standing up straight, spreading their shoulders, and puffing out their chest to feel empowered and confident.
Kids who witness bullying can also help by speaking up and letting someone know what is happening. They can report it to a teacher, coach, counselor, parent, or other trusted adult. Bullies often feel that they have no control over their behavior, so it is important to show them that they do. Bullies who are told that their actions have consequences and that they will not be tolerated may stop bullying.
In some cases, bullies simply lack empathy. They may have trouble feeling what others are experiencing, and they can be cruel to others for no reason other than that it makes them feel better about themselves. This type of bullying is more dangerous because it can escalate quickly.
3. It hurts families
Many parents are horrified to learn that their child is being bullied. They want to do everything they can to make it stop, but because bullying is a choice made by the bully, it is not something they can control directly. Parents can report bullying, encourage their child to talk about what is happening to them, and support them through it, but they cannot force the bully to stop.
When children are being bullied, it can impact their relationships with loved ones and may lead to depression or anxiety. It can also cause physical problems, such as headaches and stomachaches. Bullied youth are twice as likely to use drugs and alcohol, and they can have trouble staying in school or having friends. They are also more likely to get into fights and vandalize property, and they can be physically and emotionally abusive toward their partners or children.
In some cases, serious bullying leads to suicide. Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide after being tormented by his roommate in 2010, was bullied online as well as in person before he jumped off the George Washington Bridge. Children who commit suicide often have long histories of depression and anxiety but don’t always seek help.
Moreover, the effects of bullying can carry into adulthood. Children bullied in childhood are more likely to suffer from various mental health disorders as adults, and they are at a higher risk for addiction, domestic violence, and other forms of abuse.
Bullying can be prevented by encouraging children to communicate openly with parents and teachers, creating a nurturing environment where it is OK to talk about feelings, and implementing social-emotional learning programs, such as PATHS or RULER, that teach children language for their emotions and strategies for thinking before acting. It is also important to talk to your kids about bullying before they go to school and to check in daily about what they are experiencing. A parent who is concerned about their child being bullied should find ways to increase their circle of friends and expose them to extracurricular activities that bring out the best in them.
4. It hurts the community
While the physical impact of bullying is most easily seen, it also comes in many other forms. Verbal and emotional bullying (teasing, social exclusion, etc.) can hurt as much as physical harm. Kids who are bullied often develop a fear of going to school because they don’t feel safe and can be left feeling isolated or disconnected from others. This can negatively affect their academic performance and lead to other problems later in life, such as low self-esteem, depression, or even substance abuse.
Kids who are bullied often begin to believe that they cannot change their situation and may give up trying or feel hopeless. This is called learned helplessness. As they grow into adults, this can lead to serious problems with relationships and work.
Bullying can be hard to detect because it can happen in private or in places where teachers and other staff members don’t have visibility. However, if it does occur, schools must take action quickly. They should set up a system where kids who are bullied and the students who bully them can meet with staff they trust and be assured that their report will be taken seriously. Having this meeting without the person being bullied present is recommended, as it could be extremely intimidating and embarrassing for them.
It is also important for parents to talk with their children about their experiences at school and make sure they know that they will be supported if they tell someone about bullying. They should also encourage their children to have open, supportive relationships with their family members and be able to express their emotions in a healthy way. An SEL program that helps children develop language for their feelings and strategies to think before acting can be helpful as well.
Lastly, it is important to note that bullying doesn’t just hurt kids; it also hurts the community as a whole. Communities that are dominated by bullying are often less safe for everyone, including the perpetrators of bullying and their families. This is why it’s essential that we work together to create a safe learning environment where kids can thrive and get the support they need.