The Bullying Epidemic

100,000 students carry a gun to school.

That number is shocking. What could possibly be the cause of a statistic so terrifying? If you guessed bullying, you’d be right. Bullying has increasingly been a topic on the news because of the large number of children it affects and the negative consequences it produces. To validate this, here are some statistics:

  • 30-50% of students are bullied or are bullies
  • 1/3 of high school drop outs blame bullying
  • 23% of elementary students are bullied up to 3 times a day
  • 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools
  • 160,000 students skip school because of bullying.

Bullying has become an epidemic. One large reason for this can be attributed to the increase in technology. 20 years ago, a bullied child was only bullied at school. Their home was a safe place where the bullying stopped. Although technology is seen as a wonderful improvement to our society for many reasons, it only has a negative influence on bullying. Rather than the home being a safe place, the bullying only continues through Facebook, texting, and other online forums. This not only makes bullying easier to do, but it makes it much more persistent.

So why is it that kids even want to bully other kids? According to an article by Lynne Shallcross, it may have to do with trying to gain a sense of power and control. The target tends to be children that hold some characteristic that makes them stick out. Jealousy is also another motivator. If someone feels that their status or role is somehow being threatened, they may turn to bullying in order to gain it back. What’s interesting is that 1/3 of bullies are actually bullies themselves. This has more to do with trying to feel a sense of belonging or by projecting their own hurt feelings onto someone else. Another more simple explanation is that children find bullying effective in getting what they want.

It’s clear that bullying has several consequences. Academically, the student may fall behind because they’re too distracted by the bullying or may skip school a lot in order to avoid it. The lasting mental effects are the real danger.  Suicide is most notably the most severe consequences, but it can also lead to disorders like depression and anxiety. Even without the development of a mental disorder, it can very much affect your view of the world. For example, you may feel unsafe and untrustworthy of others or develop unhealthy ways of dealing with conflict. Researcher William Copeland recently published his findings from a longitudinal study done looking at the long-term effects of bullying. What they found is that bullies were more likely to develop antisocial personality disorder, although it was rare. Victims of bullying were four times as likely to develop an anxiety disorder compared with those unaffected by bullying. The group of kids that suffered the most were those that were bullies and victims. They were five-times as likely to develop depression, 10 times as likely to have suicidal thoughts and 15 times as likely to develop a panic disorder.

I’ve had personal experiences with bullying in middle school. Although Facebook and texting didn’t exist back then, AOL Instant Messaging was the main channel through which I was harassed. It wasn’t until I went to high school that I escaped it. I can’t even imagine how difficult it could be for a child in this generation to find a way to get away from it all. I can also admit that bullying has very much affected my life as an adult.

Bullying expert Susan Swearer explained how bullying is a social-ecological problem which consists of individual, community, family, school, and peer group factors as influences. This means that bullying needs to be addressed in each of these arenas for each different community. There isn’t just one plan of action that works for every single school; although the main form of advice remains constant:DO SOMETHING.

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Posted on August 21, 2013, in Community, Emerging Trends in Psychology, Students, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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