According to research, 1 in 7 Canadian children between the ages of 11 and 16 have at one time been bullied (Journal of Pediatrics). Researchers at the University of Guelph found that 50% of local school children reported being bullied in the last month. Forty-five percent of these same children said they did not feel safe at school.
Bullying is a repeated form of harassment where the bully typically has more power than his or her target (e.g., physical power, social power). Bullying includes, physical forms of harassment (e.g. punching kicking), social harassment (e.g., excluding from social groups), emotional harassment (e.g., teasing, putdowns), and verbal harassment (e.g., name calling). A newer type of bullying is cyber-bullying where victims are targeted online, by cell phones, and other technological devices.
Physical and Psychological Effects
Long-term bullying has negative effects on all parties involved. Targets of bullying are more likely to experience feelings of loneliness, isolation and a concern for their physical safety. Targets of repeated bullying also experience increased levels of depression, anxiety, and stress and reduced self-esteem. Due to this they are more likely to experience symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, loss of appetite, troubles sleeping, bad dreams, sadness, and moodiness.
Studies have also shown that long-term bullying negatively affects bullies and the effects can worsen over the life cycle. Their antisocial behaviour often interferes with learning, creating genuine friends, work, building intimate relationships, and their mental health. Bullies can turn into antisocial adults and are more likely to engage in crime and become emotionally and physically abusing husbands and parents.
Solutions to End Bullying
Evidence suggests that bullying is more likely to occur when parents, teachers, or other authority figures are absent from the scene. Thus, adding more authority figures (even video cameras) could help solve immediate problems of bullying (at least for the traditional face-to-face bullying).
Considering the negative effects of bullying on both targets and bullies, however what can be done to eliminate (or at least minimize) bullying from our society so we may bring up well functioning children and create adults with a healthy well-being.
Here are a few tips:
1. Educational programs at school (raising awareness): Educational programs are effective and continue to raise awareness regarding what consists of bullying and how to deal with it. They also teach youth about respect and how bullying hurts.
2. Model positive behaviour for solving conflicts: Teaching kids how to behave and how to solve social conflicts starts at home. Parents are extremely influential and have the power to teach children the importance of solving disputes in a way where no one is hurt.
3. Speak about bullying at home: Parents can share values about respect and kindness for others. This is a chance for parents to promote positive life and human interaction skills. Also, parents can share some personal stories of bullying or situations they have witnessed as kids. They can share how everyone’s life has turned out and how bullying affected all parties involved (including bystanders).
4. Provide love and support to kids at home: Kids who receive love and support from parents tend to treat others positively. These kids are more likely to have higher self-esteem and advanced social skills. They also model their parents’ behaviour and treat their peers thoughtfully.
5. Understand the bully: Find out the underlying cause of why the bully is bullying and work with bully to overcome the issue. Sometimes educational programs are not enough and individual intervention is needed in order to have the bully become aware of his/her thoughts, emotions, and behaviour. Compassion is very powerful.
Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto