It is essential for adults, especially parents and teachers, to understand what bullying does to children, since a third of children and teenagers are bullied at school.
No child should have to suffer from the traumatic effects of bullying, yet all of us suffer when bullying is ignored.
Whether you consult with a child psychologist, attend workshops, talk with other parents and teachers, research online or take other measures to educate yourself about bullying, attention to the problem should be a priority. By joining forces and focusing our attention, we can make bullying a thing of the past.
What is Bullying?
Bullying can take three forms:
- Physical: hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing, taking personal belongings
- Verbal: taunting, malicious teasing, name calling, making threats
- Psychological: spreading rumors, manipulating social relationships, engaging in social exclusion, extortion, intimidation.
Short-term Effects of Bullying
On any given day, up to 160,000 students stay home from school because they are scared of being bullied. But it’s not just children who are bullied that are impacted. Kids who bully others are more likely to skip school than those who don’t.
The psychological and emotional effects of bullying are clear. Children who are bullied experience depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, anger and feelings of insecurity (Olweus, et al 1999).
Kids who are bullied are more likely to report feeling physically sick with symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, stuffy nose, headaches and stomachaches. Studies have shown that the more frequently a child is picked on, the more severe these symptoms become.
Victims of bullying have a range of sleep problems. They may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and getting enough rest in any given night. When victims of bullying are able to sleep, they have more nightmares than those who aren’t bullied.
Unfortunately, victims of bullying have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts than their peers. Bully-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying and bullying over the Internet.
Long-term Effects of Bullying
Research has shown that being bullied in early childhood is linked to greater depression and lower self-esteem in adolescence and early adulthood (Olweus et al, 1999).
One study found that 57% of people who were being bullied at work have also been bullied as children in school.
When boys bully their peers in school, there is an increased risk for violence later in adulthood.
Bullying behavior has been linked to other forms of antisocial behavior, such as vandalism, shoplifting, dropping out of school, fighting and the use of drugs and alcohol.
Addressing the Problem
If you suspect your child is being bullied, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Without intervention, children who are bullied can develop serious academic, social, and emotional difficulties.
Talk to your child’s pediatrician, teacher, school counselor or family physician. If the bullying continues, a comprehensive evaluation by a child psychologist should be arranged. Such an evaluation helps children, families and schools develop a strategy to deal with the bullying.
If you suspect your child is bullying others, getting help is equally critical. A child psychologist will help you and your child understand what is causing the bullying and help you develop a plan to stop the destructive behavior.
Above all, getting professional help earlier rather than later is the key to reducing the risk of lasting consequences for children who are suffering from bullying.
Dr. Kenneth Roberson is a child psychologist in San Francisco with over 20 years of experience. To schedule a free initial consultation, please call 415-922-1122.