By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
Childhood bullying is a problem that many experience growing up. Fortunately, a lot more attention is now drawn to the problem of bullying, which has led to school administrators starting various anti-bullying campaigns. These campaigns have included placing posters around elementary and middle schools that prohibit bullying and educating teachers on how to address this behavior when they observe it.
Effects of Childhood Bullying on Mental Health
Tackling the issue of bullying in schools is important to children’s mental health because unaddressed bullying can have serious consequences. Children who suffer bullying are likely to lose their self-esteem, be afraid to go to school and may experience anti-social problems later in life.
In addition, children who are victims of verbal or physical abuse from bullies are at a high risk of depression. According to Houston Behavioral Health Hospital, research has discovered that childhood bullying can result in depression that persists 40 years later in life.
In severe cases, childhood bullying can even lead to suicide. The Megan Meier Foundation notes that children who are bullied are nearly two times more likely to attempt suicide. Also, the National Institute of Mental Health says that in 2020, suicide was the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 to 34.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is a growing problem for many children, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center. Consequently, parents, teachers, and school administrators should be aware of this problem and ready to stop it.
Cyberbullying occurs when children are exposed to negative, untrue, destructive, or damaging online content that targets them, causing feelings of embarrassment and humiliation. Cyberbullying occurs in various forms, such as:
- Text messages
- Posting pictures or written messages to social media sites
- Posting information to gaming sites and chat forums
DataProt has several important statistics on cyberbullying. For instance, DataProt says that:
- “90% of teens in the US believe cyber harassment is a problem.
- 15% of young cyberbullying victims would prefer to keep the issue a secret.
- Students are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide if they have been cyberbullied.
- 80% of teens say that others cyberbully because they think it is funny.
- 37% of bullying victims develop social anxiety.
- 59% of US teenagers have experienced bullying or harassment online.
- 14.5% of children between the ages of 9 and 12 have been cyberbullied.
- 66.3% of tweens tried to help the victim of cyberbullying.”
Indicators of Childhood Bullying
To determine if someone is being bullied, there are various signs that fellow students, teachers and parents can learn to watch for. For many students, early intervention can mitigate the emotional destruction that occurs with bullying victims.
Warning signs that a child is being bullied include:
- Unexplained injuries
- Missing or damaged personal property
- Overt anxiety about going to school
- Faking illness to avoid going to school
- Noticeable changes in behavior such as engaging in self-harm or lashing out at others in anger
- Changes in eating habits
- Unexplained hunger coming home from school, even though lunch was taken to school
- Interruptions in sleep patterns
- Loss of interest in schoolwork
- Sudden isolation from other students or friends
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Suicidal ideation
Any of these warning signs should be immediately addressed, and parents and teachers should explore the root cause to determine if a child is a victim. If children notice signs of bullying, they should tell a trusted adult who can take action.
Bullying Behavior Should Never Be Ignored
Childhood bullying continues to be a problem in schools, but it can be addressed through education and adult intervention. It is important to never ignore this behavior and protect our children. Parents, teachers and fellow students can develop a community-wide bullying prevention strategy that includes educating students in class about the consequences of childhood bullying and providing ways to report this behavior.
In addition, parents and teachers should frequently talk to their children about bullying. Each bullying situation is different, and there is not a single approach that will work every time.
However, teaching children to stand up to bullies as a group, confronting bullies about their behavior and letting them know that their actions are not acceptable, and confronting the issue head-on can be effective. Depending on the situation, it may be necessary for parents and teachers to communicate when childhood bullying occurs, which can foster strategies to stop this unacceptable behavior.
If parents speak to teachers about bullying incidents in class and they continue, parents should promptly reach out to the principal or other school administrators. Sometimes, speaking with the bully’s parents can be helpful, but that’s not always the case.
Hurt people hurt people. So, if someone is a bully at school because that person is neglected or abused at home, it may not be helpful to reach out to the bully’s parents. In severe bullying cases, it may be necessary to get the involvement of a school resource officer or local police officer.
About the Author
Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor in the School of Security and Global Studies and has over two decades in the field of criminal justice. His expertise includes training on countering human trafficking, maritime security, effective stress management in policing and narcotics trafficking trends in Latin America. Jarrod frequently conducts in-country research and consultant work in Central and South America on human trafficking and current trends in narcotics trafficking. He also has a background in business development. Jarrod can be reached through his website at www.Sadulski.com for more information.