Health and Mind: Bullying
Published 12:30 pm Tuesday, October 3, 2023
By Kayla Walton
Clark County Health Department
Bullying is a growing concern in almost all school settings, and it seems there are few exceptions. According to a 2019 National Center for Education Statistics survey, about 22% of U.S. students ages 12-18 reported being bullied at school.
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This includes being made fun of, called names, insulted, threatened, being the subject of rumors, pushed, shoved, tripped, spit on and having property destroyed. In our ever-evolving technological world, the newer form of bullying – cyberbullying – has also become an issue for young people. Like many adults, adolescents are becoming highly involved in online social platforms, often spending multiple hours per day on them.
The most popular social media platforms for high schoolers include TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram.
Bullying is also gaining more recognition as a serious problem for the youth who experience it. Bullying is known to lead to depression, anxiety, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, poor academic performance, and loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed. A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found that being bullied made a teen five times more likely to attempt suicide.
With all the issues that bullying can cause, why do kids still do it? Is there anything we can do to help? Stopbullying.gov is a resource for students, parents, school workers, and any other caring adult to learn about bullying and how to prevent it from happening. They list four action items that adults can take to help avoid bullying among youth. Those actions are to help kids understand bullying, keep lines of communication open, encourage kids to do what they love and model how to treat others with respect and kindness.
Helping kids understand how to identify and stand up for someone being bullied is the first line of defense against bullies. Often, bullies keep their harassment a secret from other people, especially adults. Peers will likely be the first (and sometimes only) witnesses to the bullying events and their knowledge on how to handle the situation (showing kindness, getting help, etc.) can be essential in helping overcome bullying.
Keeping lines of communication open with all students can give adults insight into what is going on in their lives and if they may be dealing with bullying issues. It can also be an opportunity for parents and teachers to educate students on the issue of bullying and what they can do if it happens to them or a friend.
Students participating in activities they enjoy, such as sports, music, art, or other extracurriculars, is a protective measure against bullying. Bullies frequently target individuals who are inclined to keep to themselves. Extracurricular activities help students build relationships, give them a sense of community, and improve social skills.
Lastly, being a positive example of how to treat others with kindness, being respectful of people different than yourself, and resolving conflict peacefully can go a long way in preventing bullying in youth. Kids generally model the behavior of the adults they are close to, and if they are bullied themselves by adults or see adults bullying others, it can become a learned behavior for them to do the same.
September was National Bullying Prevention Month, but any time is an excellent opportunity to talk to your students about bullying and remind them to ask an adult for help if they are dealing with a bully. It’s also a great time to educate yourself on how to manage a bullying situation through resources such as stopbullying.gov.