7 important things you need to know about bullying

Boy with schoolwork BW.jpg
Bullying is prevalent, it's not just physical, and it has serious consequences. It's also preventable. If you're a parent, talk to your kids about bullying and model kindness and respect for them. You can also utilize teaching moments to help them understand the impact of their words and actions. (Buckeye Health Plan)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The thing about bullying is, it’s easy to write off as something that “just happens.” Maybe no one really gets hurt. Maybe it even builds character.

If you find yourself thinking those things—even passively— don’t. Bullying is real, it’s serious, and it destroys lives. With that in mind, here are seven things you should to know about it:

1. Bullying is prevalent—and increasing

Twenty-one percent of all students are bullied at some point. A third of those report being bullied regularly. Those numbers are getting more concerning by the year too, thanks especially to the dramatic increase in reports of cyber bullying; 42 percent of kids report being bullied online. And then there’s this: perhaps fewer than 30 percent of kids who have been bullied actually report it, so all those numbers at the beginning of this section are likely too low by a factor of two.

2. It’s not just physical

Bullying is all about power. But that power isn’t always exerted through shoves and punches. Bullying can also be verbal, involving name-calling, insults, slurs, and threats. Or it can be mental, as when bullies belittle and shame the victim through public embarrassment, intimidation, or intentional exclusion.

3. It has very serious consequences for the victim

In the United States 160,000 children miss classes every day due to different kinds of bullying. Moreover 10 percent of students drop out of school because they are bullied. Even if they don’t drop out, negative outcomes are inevitable, including depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.

4. Yes, bullying can lead to suicide

A victim of bullying is twice as likely to take his or her own life. After accidents, suicide is the nation’s leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 19. Just last year 111 Ohioans of that age group committed suicide, 22 younger than age 14, one younger than age 10. And it’s getting worse. The last six months have seen a dramatic rise in teen suicide, leading to important awareness campaigns (like the one you’re reading.)

5. There are obvious signs and symptoms

Victims of bullying don’t always show it, but make sure to look for the following signs in your friends, family, or classmates: becoming withdrawn; showing fear when it’s time to go to school; increasing signs of depression; decline in academic performance; poor communication and/or rude interactions. Victims may also experience symptoms of physical and mental illness, including headaches, stomach aches, depression, anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and isolation, sleeping problems, and weight loss.

6. Bullies can be anyone—including former victims

Stereotypes about bullies abound. Don’t listen to them. There is no typical bully, just as there is no typical victim. Yet a surprising amount of victims become bullies. This is because the victims of bullying tend to experience symptoms of mental illness, including anxiety and aggression. They turn to bullying as an outlet because it’s something they know first hand is effective. Doctors would describe this as the positive reinforcement of aggressive behavior in one’s peer group. In simpler terms, the bully just wants others to hurt as much as they do.

7. It’s preventable

No, bullying isn’t something that “just happens.” It’s preventable. If you’re a parent, you can do so by proactively talking to your kids about bullying and by modeling kindness and respect. You can also utilize teaching moments to help them understand the impact of words and actions and, if necessary, discipline problematic behavior. Also make sure to create a relationship with their teachers; they’re with your kids all day, and they might see something you don’t.

- -

Buckeye Health Plan is proud to raise awareness about bullying in the Greater Cincinnati community. For more information about Buckeye Health Plan, visit their website.