Bullying is a huge problem in America and all around the world. While adults may experience bullying in the workplace, it is children who are affected most – psychologically and physically – by bullying. And the effects of bullying can be severe and long-lasting, leading to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, PTSD, behavioral problems, suicidal thinking, and suicide attempts. In this article, we’ll look at some statistics as well as offer tips for bullying prevention.
Bullying: Facts and FiguresStatistics from Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center (2017) indicate that at least one in five children (20.8%) experience bullying at some point during their childhood and adolescence. Other statistics suggest that up to 35% of 12- to 18-year-olds are bullied on a regular basis (Modecki et al, 2014).
The types of bullying most commonly reported include:
- Being made fun of (13%)
- Being the subject of nasty rumors (12%)
- Physical bullying, including pushing, shoving, tripping, spitting (5%)
Generally, more girls than boys are bullied at school – 23% of girls vs. 19% of boys. However, when it comes to physical bullying, boys are at a higher risk – 11% of boys vs. 8% of girls (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016).
In addition to traditional (face-to-face) bullying, cyberbullying (online) is also on the rise. Cyberbullying can take many forms, including:
- Mean messages or threats sent to an email address or cell phone
- Group chats mocking the victim or spreading rumors
- Hurtful and/or threatening messages being posted on social media
- Hacking the victim’s email account to send nasty messages to others
- The bully pretending to be someone else online so as to hurt the victim
- Taking and/or Photoshopping photos of a victim and posting them online or sharing them in order to hurt or embarrass the victim
- Sexting, or sharing sexually explicit pictures or messages about the victim
Statistics for cyberbullying suggest that at least 33% of young people experience some kind of online bullying. Kids are much less likely to tell parents about cyberbullying, with only 10% of kids reporting to an adult that they’re being bullied online.
How Bullying Affects Children
Bullying can affect kids in different ways, depending on the type of bullying, the intensity of the bullying, and its frequency. If your child is the victim of an isolated bullying incident, for example, the effects will be less severe and more short-lived than the effects of persistent, serious bullying over the course of several years.
Some of the most common effects of bullying (according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016) include:
- Difficulties in school, including poor academic performance
- Mental health and behavioral problems
- Eating issues, leading to eating disorders
- Sleep difficulties and bedwetting
- Anxiety and depression
- Distorted self-image and poor self-esteem
- Problems with relationships with parents, siblings, and friends
- Physical health issues, including psychosomatic symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, muscle aches that have no physical cause
- Feeling that the bullying is deserved
- Suicidal thinking
- Suicide attempts
- Substance abuse
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Some of the effects of bullying may be short term and resolve once the bullying ends, but for many children, long-term depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can stem from bullying, long after the actual bullying has ended.
Bullying is commonplace in schools and youth groups, but that doesn’t mean it’s something we should simply accept. Bullying prevention is something that schools, teachers, parents, and youth workers should all be involved in. More and more schools are implementing bullying prevention programs which can decrease bullying by around 25% when consistently implemented.
However, there are things you can do to help kids understand what bullying is and why it is never, ever acceptable. If you’re a parent, you may be thinking that your kid would never be a bully, but can you be 100% sure of that?
There’s sometimes a fine line between harmless teasing and bullying and often kids cross that line without realizing it. Educating kids about what constitutes bullying is one of the major steps in preventing bullying.
Here are some helpful tips for bullying prevention:
- Teach children to know what bullying looks like. You can find great resources for helping kids understand bullying on the Stop Bullying website.
- Teach children about how to (safely) stand up to a bully — for example, by saying “stop” confidently, or using humor to take away the bully’s power.
- Teach kids about how to keep themselves safe.
- Teach children to help other kids if they’re being bullied.
- Instill in kids that telling an adult is the right thing to do.
The Christian Peace Keepers Program is a great resource to look at if you want to teach your kids about bullying (and preventing bullying) from a faith-based perspective. There are also resources and curriculums for schools and guidance counselors. The Peace Keepers Program is a peer-mentor-type scheme that helps kids to love one another, develop godly characteristics, and create a safe learning environment.
Treating the Effects of Bullying
Counseling for Kids Who’ve Experienced Bullying
It’s great that schools and other organizations are taking steps towards bullying prevention but how do we help children who are already victims of bullying? Child counseling is a great way to help kids to explore their feelings using play therapy and other child-focused therapeutic techniques so that the long-term effects of bullying can, at least, be minimized.
A Faith-Orientated Treatment Process
Christian counseling for kids has a lot of benefits. In addition to the benefits associated with secular counseling, Christian counseling offers a more holistic kind of healing, guiding children towards a stronger faith and dependence on God that can speed up the psychological healing process.
When children have experienced bullying, their sense of safety may have been damaged, making it difficult for them to trust others and forge relationships. Since these types of problems can persist well into adulthood, addressing them through Christian child counseling can be hugely beneficial.
Christian counseling for kids often involves play therapy, which is particularly good for younger children who may have difficulty verbalizing their feelings. Through play, kids can express themselves more easily, and this can also help make the counseling environment seem less intimidating.
For older kids and teens, play therapy is less likely to be used, so Christian counseling for bullied teens is more talk-based. Look for a counselor who is experienced in working with teens, as they will have the skills needed to connect with your teen and make it easier for your teen to open up about their feelings.
Helping Your Kids at HomeCounseling may not be right for your child or teen, and, if that’s the case, then you can help them with their feelings and the long term effects of bullying at home. It’s normal to feel out of your depth when you’re trying to help your kids, but there are a lot of great resources available to help.
For example, here are some books you could read:
- God, I Need to Talk to You About Bullying by Susan K. Leigh, which is aimed at children aged between 2 and 7.
- Stand Up to Bullies by Sophia Day and Kayla Pearson. This book is suitable for kids aged between 4 and 10.
- Talk Now and Later: How to Lead Kids Through Life’s Tough Topics by Brian Dollar. This book covers more than bullying, with topics including sex, self-image, friendships, and restoring broken relationships.
Biblical Wisdom About Bullying
If you want to work with your child on taking a biblical approach to bullying, you could spend some time studying passages of the Bible. For example:
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. – Luke 6:27-28
This passage can help kids understand how Jesus would have them respond to bullies
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. – Psalm 138:7
The Psalms are full of comfort for children who are struggling with anxiety after being bullied.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6
This verse can be a comfort to those who are afraid.
Hope After Bullying
Bullying happens, and its effects can be long-lasting. However, God promises comfort for the oppressed and freedom for those who are held captive by fear. If your child has been a victim of bullying and is struggling with their emotions, reach out to a Christian counselor who can help your child find hope after bullying.
Bullying statistics, Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center, (2017), https://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/stats.asp
Indicators of School Crime and Safety, National Center for Educational Statistics, (2016), https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017064.pdf
Day, S., and Pearson, K. (2018), Stand Up to Bullies, MVP Kids Media
Dollar, B. (2015) Talk Now and Later: How to Lead Kids Through Life’s Tough Topics, Salubris Resources
Leigh, Susan K. (2005) God, I Need to Talk to You About Bullying, Concordia Publishing House
Modecki, K. L., Minchin, J., Harbaugh, A. G., Guerra, N. G., & Runions, K. C. (2014). Bullying prevalence across contexts: A meta-analysis measuring cyber and traditional bullying. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55, 602-611.
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