The message of this year’s National Bullying Prevention Month awareness campaign is ‘No Matter’ as in, no matter who you are, what you look like, or what makes you different from me, we are all people and no one deserves to be bullied.
No matter who you are it is likely that you have had to deal with a bully at some point in your life. Whether it was the kid on the playground, the group of girls in high school, or the boss that made life miserable, bullying is a problem in our society. Unfortunately, we now know that what has been seen as just a part of life or even a rite of passage can cause real, lasting damage that can impact the rest of a person’s life.
According to StopBullying.Gov, bullying doesn’t only affect those who are being bullied; it also negatively affects the bullies themselves and anyone who witnesses it.
Kids who are bullied are more likely to be depressed, to struggle with anxiety issues, to feel isolated, sad, and alone, and to experience changes in their eating, sleeping, and activity patterns. Children and teens who are bullied may not live up to their academic potential or participate in school activities, both of which can limit their access to higher education opportunities and high paying careers. They are also at a greater risk for missing school, skipping school, and dropping out of school altogether. In rare cases, children and teens who are bullied can lash out with extreme violence and almost all the school shootings in the 1990s were committed by victims of bullying. All of these effects can continue to impact that person for the rest of their lives.
When children and teens bully others it can also affect the rest of their lives. These children are more likely to engage in violent, risky behavior as teens and as adults. They also have an increased risk for alcohol and/or drug abuse, participating in criminal activities like fighting and vandalizing property, and for dropping out of high school. Those who bully are more likely to become sexually active early on, to be convicted of a crime, and to be abusive to their spouses and children in the future.
Those who are not bullied themselves and who do not participate in bullying others but who simply witness bullying do not go untouched. These children and teens are more likely to smoke, drink, and use drugs during adolescence. They also have an increased risk for mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
This understanding of just how much bullying affects the lives of our teens and their futures highlights the importance of doing what you can to help stomp out bullying in your family, your school, and your community this month. For more information on bullying and its effects and to learn more about what you can do to help, here are some helpful resources.
StopBullying.gov from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Bullying Prevention Resource Guide from The Partnership for Children and Families
Is My Child Being Bullied? Action Steps for Parents from the Huffington Post
When Your Child is the Bully from the New York Times