Bullying: not just about stealing lunch money anymore


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According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, one out of every four students report being bullied during the school year. While most of us might think of a bully as someone who’s just out to get lunch money or a bigger person shoving a smaller child into a locker like on TV, nowadays the image of a bully has drastically changed. Today, bullying is not that easy to define; now that everything is digital, bullying has taken Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 2.17.55 PMon new forms as the years have passed. For example, bullying can also occur behind the scenes, through gossip on a social media website or text messages, causing victims of bullying emotional damage that go far beyond physical damage. One of the more popular types of bullying many of us see today is cyberbullying, which is described as repetitive bullying that takes place through technology, such as cell phones, computers, chats, social media sites and websites. Cyberbullying.org points out that cyberbullying is especially harmful because it can be done so easily. “For example, imagine someone posts a particularly embarrassing picture of another person online in such a way that others can see it, link to it, and even leave public comments in reference to it,” states the website. “While the action of uploading the picture is a one-time behavior, others can view it or otherwise refer to it repeatedly, thereby resulting in recurring humiliation and shame to the target. One person might see it, or millions of people might see See BULLYING page 3 it.” Thanks to new apps such as Snapchat, Yik Yak and Whisper, as well as portable gaming websites and social media, cyberbullying occurs across a variety of mediums in cyberspace. This trend has led to an increase of reports of cyberbullying. In 2014, Cyberbullying.org found that 12 percent of 11-18 year olds admitted to being cyberbullied. Because of the existence of cyberbullying, bullies use the keyboard as a cloak to mask their identities and hide, targeting victims who may not even know why they’re being bullied. Cyberbullying is much different than other types of bullying, as the hurtful actions of cyberbullies can go viral and often victims may not recognize the serious harm because the bullying can be done from a physically distant location. Another big form of bullying is verbal. The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” isn’t always true to form. Verbal abuse can hit hard in many ways, including criticism, being put down by others, spreading false rumors or threats. Young children are especially susceptible to verbal abuse, which can make them feel rejected and uninvolved, according to Nobullying.com. By targeting specific things such as sexuality, race, body type and personality traits, bullies who use words as weapons can cause low self-esteem and mental issues to their victims. Regardless, any form of bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior that has serious and long-lasting effects on mental health and overall being of youth. While there are many different forms of bullying, the effects are all the same. Students who are bullied are more likely to: * Feel disconnected from their peers * Have lower academic outcome * Have low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and feelings of emptiness * Inability to concentrate * School avoidance and higher rates of absenteeism * Sleeping problems * Headaches and stomach aches * PTSD * Self-isolation; and even, in worse cases, self harm, suicidal thoughts or suicide. Children who are bullied are found to have an increased risk for suicide-related behavior, according to the Center for Disease Control. One in 65,000 children ages 10 to 14, commit suicide each year, according to SAVE: Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9–12 in public and private schools in the United States conducted by the CDC in 2014 found that: * 16 percent of students reported seriously considering suicide * 13 percent of students reported creating a plan * Eight percent of students reported trying to take their own life in the 12 months preceding the survey While studies show that many children who have committed suicide due to bullying, there has been further research that has concluded that many of them had other issues going on in their lives. Violence is also an effect of bullying as well. In 2014, based on a survey conducted, it was found that 15,000 American high school students who are victims of bullying were twice as likely to bring a weapon to school; 72 percent of these students with guns/other weapons were found to have carried weapons because they were in a fight at school, threatened or injured with a weapon, missed school because they felt unsafe and/or had something stolen from them on school grounds. This leads to scary conclusions, as many of us have seen the heartbreaking effects of the Columbine shooting in 1999, when two students killed 11 of their peers, one teacher and wounded 23 others. With all of these side effects in mind, it is important to educate everyone on the dangers of bullying and find a solution to make parents and their children aware of bullying. Although the schools are doing their own thing in educating their students about bullying, parents play a key role in raising awareness. Some parents may not even know how to use technology or handle cyberbullying and their child. If you are a parent to someone being bullied, it can be difficult to swallow this down; as difficult as it is to process the news, it is important to put a stop to whatever behavior is affecting a child, as it could become worse. It is crucial to take bullying very seriously and not brush it off. If you suspect your child is being bullied, find opportunities to open the floor up to conversations about bullying. Kidshealth.org suggests that parents find a situation involving bullying on television and asking their child “what do you think of this?” or “have you ever experienced that?” Parents can even bring up their past experiences with bullying to give their child a better perspective; Kidshealth.org also urges parents to let their child know that if they are being bullied (or see it happening to someone else), they must tell an adult about it, whether a parent, teacher, school counselor or older sibling. Parents who figure out that their child is bullied should take action as well. A crucial step is taking a look around one’s home. Kids who live with name-calling, yelling, harsh criticism or physical anger can absorb these traits and may act out at school. Parents are also urged to examine how they talk to their children and how they react to their own strong emotions when the children are around, while avoiding name-calling and accusations. By teaching your child to practice respect and kindness, encouraging good behavior and setting an example, while also allowing guidance counselors and other school officials to step in when things get really rough, parents can help their child stop bullying or prevent it from happening in the first place. It could save a child’s life.