For many children, the anxiety of a new school year is not just one of nervous excitement about a new year beginning. For many it may be a youth’s severe concern about the risk of victimization as a result of peer bullying. Awareness of the potential that a youth may be experiencing bullying should be part of all health and other social encounters with children and youth. Screening for this problem can be a simple step to reduce emotional pain and suffering, improve youth’s success in academics, and may prevent negative psychological repercussions and other more devastating outcomes. When identified, discussion with the youth, their parents, and engagement of school authorities are important steps to make.
Bullying is a pervasive public health concern among youth in the United States. In 2015, approximately 1 in 5 students ages 12-18 reported being bullied at school during the school year, translating to millions of youth being impacted across the country.
Because bullying is a form of aggressive behavior, it can be traumatizing and negatively affect children’s development, social functioning, educational performance, and mental and physical health. Kids who bully others often get into trouble – including physical fights – at school. Kids who get bullied may themselves begin to bully others.
How Common Is Bullying
- About 20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying nationwide.
- Students ages 12–18 who reported being bullied said they thought those who bullied them:
- Had the ability to influence other students’ perception of them (56%).
- Had more social influence (50%).
- Were physically stronger or larger (40%)
- Had more money (31%).
Bullying in Schools
Nationwide, 19% of students in grades 9–12 report being bullied on school property in the 12 months prior to the survey.
- The following percentages of students ages 12-18 had experienced bullying in various places at school:
- Hallway or stairwell (43.4%)
- Classroom (42.1%)
- Cafeteria (26.8%)
- Outside on school grounds (21.9%)
- Online or text (15.3%)
- Bathroom or locker room (12.1%)
- Somewhere else in the school building (2.1%)
- Approximately 46% of students ages 12-18 who were bullied during the school year notified an adult at school about the bullying.
- Among students ages 12-18 who reported being bullied at school during the school year, 15 % were bullied online or by text.
Types of Bullying
- Students ages 12-18 experienced various types of bullying, including:
- Being the subject of rumors or lies (13.4%)
- Being made fun of, called names, or insulted (13.0%)
- Pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on (5.3%)
- Leaving out/exclusion (5.2%)
- Threatened with harm (3.9%)
- Others tried to make them do things they did not want to do (1.9%)
- Property was destroyed on purpose (1.4%)
OUTCOMES OF BULLYING
Kids Who are Bullied
Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, social, emotional, academic, and mental health issues. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:
- Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
- Health complaints—aches and pains, headaches, stomach aches, anxiety and fear
- Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.
Kids Who Bully Others
Kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood. Kids who bully are more likely to:
- Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults
- Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school
- Engage in early sexual activity
- Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults
- Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults
Kids who witness bullying are more likely to:
- Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs
- Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
- Miss or skip school
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Parents and healthcare providers can help prevent “back to school means back to bullying” for children and teens.
Healthcare providers can be important allies in determining if a child is being bullied or why bullying behavior may have surfaced. Adding the question as part of a routine examination is an appropriate strategy to use. Healthcare providers – including pediatricians, nurses, and physician assistants – can also alert parents to signs that bullying may be continuing, that their child might be depressed, and if it is affecting health or other aspects of life. They can offer supportive referrals to address health and mental health concerns.
Parents are often the first to notice some of the subtle shifts that take place with children or adolescents who are affected by bullying. Their child may talk less. They may isolate themselves from friends. They may have trouble sleeping or struggle academically. They may not want to go to school, to avoid further torment by the child who is doing the bullying. Noticing behavior changes can open avenues for conversation – an important first step to intervene.
Steps parents can take include:
Ask your child what he or she thinks should be done. What’s already been tried? What worked and what didn’t?
Seek help from your child’s teacher or the school guidance counselor. Most bullying occurs on playgrounds, in lunchrooms, and bathrooms, on school buses or in unsupervised halls. Ask the school administrators to find out about programs other schools and communities have used to help combat bullying, such as peer mediation, conflict resolution, and anger management training, and increased adult supervision.
Don’t encourage your child to fight back. Instead, suggest that he or she try walking away to avoid the bully, or that they seek help from a teacher, coach, or other adult.
Help your child practice what to say to the bully so he or she will be prepared the next time.
Help your child practice being assertive. The simple act of insisting that the bully leave him alone may have a surprising effect. Explain to your child that the bully’s true goal is to get a response.
Encourage your child to be with friends when traveling back and forth from school, during shopping trips, or on other outings. Bullies are less likely to pick on a child in a group.
American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry Bullying Resource Center https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Resource_Centers/Bullying_Resource_Center/Home.aspx
CA Department of Education https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/se/bullyres.asp
San Diego County Schools-How to Report Bullying
San Diego Unified School District https://www.sandiegounified.org/about/anti-_bullying/online_bullying_reporting_form
San Diego County Office of Education https://www.sdcoe.net/students/school-climate/bullying-prevention
Poway Unified https://www.powayusd.com/apps/pages/bullying-prevention
San Marcos Unified https://www.smusd.org/cms/one.aspx?portalId=157433&pageId=310077
Escondido Unified https://www.eusd.org/page/why-eusd-student-behavior-safety
Grossmont Union High School-contact school counselor directly
Oceanside Unified https://www.oside.us/Page/206
Valley Center Unified https://www.usd262.net/about/report-bullying-safety-concerns
Mountain Empire Unified https://www.meusd.org/Departments/Educational-Services/index.html
Sweetwater Union https://compliance.sweetwaterschools.org/bullying-cyberbullying/
San Ysidro https://www.sysdschools.org/Page/792
La Mesa/Spring Valley https://www.lmsvschools.org/complaint-procedures/
Rancho Santa Fe https://www.rsfschool.net/district/departments/school-counselor
Encinitas Schools https://www.eusd.net/departments/student-services-special-education
San Pasqual Union https://www.sanpasqualunion.net/domain/194
Borrego Springs Unified https://www.bsusd.net/cms/one.aspx?portalId=6772965&pageId=6840820