Nearly one in three kids report being bullied, but well over half of the cases of bullying go unreported. Kids who are bullied are at a greater risk of developing mental health issues like depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, trouble paying attention in school and completing assignments, and are at an increased risk for substance abuse. All forms of bullying have negative mental and physical effects on everyone involved. Bullying is a widespread epidemic, just about every kid will experience it in one form or another at some point, and when that happens there are a number of things that can be done to help.
How Bullying Takes Form
When you think of bullying you probably imagine old movies and tv shows about kids getting shoved into lockers and giving up their lunch money to avoid a fight. While physical bullying is definitely a problem, there are many other social and verbal ways that someone can be bullied, and unfortunately a lot of instances go unnoticed or unreported. Now that cell phones and social media are a big part of growing up, cyberbullying has become a huge problem for kids. It affects kids and teens all over the world and can lead to depression, anxiety, isolation, self-harm, eating disorders, and many other issues. Growing up, making friends, and figuring out who you are is hard enough on its own. Add bullying on top of all of that and it leaves kids unable to reach their full potential, and often feeling as though they’re totally alone with no one to turn to.
Not only can childhood bullying have devastating effects which cause kids to feel uncomfortable at school, home, and even in their own body, but studies show that being bullied as a child can have lasting physical and mental effects that extend far into adulthood. It’s also been shown that bullying not only hurts the victim, but has negative effects on the bully and any bystanders who witnessed the bullying, either in person or online.
What Can Be Done
The bullying problem is so widespread and has so many immediate and lasting effects that it can feel overwhelming to even know where to start, but there are things we can do to help. Here are some strategies to stop bullying, get help for victims of bullying, bystanders, and bullies themselves, and help to prevent bullying in the future:
- If you think that someone is being bullied, speak out. Most cases of bullying go unreported and the problem just gets worse.
- Be a good listener. If your child or someone you know is being bullied, bullying, or was witness to an instance of bullying, they could use someone to talk to. Offering support comes in a lot of different forms, but no matter what kids need to feel like they have someone to turn to.
- Educate yourself and others. If there isn’t a bullying awareness program in your local schools, advocate for one. Talk to the school’s superintendent, local school board, or even the state department of education for more resources.
- Make professional help available for the people involved. There’s often a stigma against going to therapy or treating mental health issues, but getting professional help early on is one of the best ways to prevent some of the long term effects of bullying and more severe mental health issues, such as depression, eating disorders, or self-harming.
- If you feel like your child or someone might be having thoughts of suicide, the suicide prevention hotline is a great resource to offer them. It can be really hard to talk about bullying and mental health issues, both for the person experiencing it and for the listener if they feel like they aren’t qualified to help. This hotline puts them in touch with trained professionals who are available to talk or chat online 24/7.
Tara Heath is a journalist who lives in California. She enjoys writing about parenting, education and health/wellness for all ages. She has two kids and loves to do research on the most current topics and find ways to educate them for the future.