Have you ever been bullied or know someone who has been bullied? I know I have. October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Each October since 2006, there has been a national effort to raise awareness about bullying and provide education and resources to try to prevent it. According to data from 2017, about 20% of youth ages 12-18 experienced bullying at school and nearly 30% reported cyberbullying during their lifetime. That is a lot of our country’s youth!
What Exactly is Bullying?
Bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior. Bullying must have a real or perceived power imbalance between the bully and the victim, where the bully uses their power to control or hurt their victim. The bullying behavior needs to be repeated over time, or at least have the potential to repeat over time.
There are three categories of bullying:
- Verbal bullying includes teasing, taunting, threats, or name-calling
- Social or relational bullying includes ignoring someone on purpose, ostracizing, spreading rumors, or embarrassing someone
- Physical bullying includes damaging belongings or harming another’s body such as spitting, hitting, pushing, rude gestures, or tripping
Technology has changed the ways of bullying. Bullying is no longer only ‘picking on’ someone, making fun of them, calling them names, or ignoring them at school. The constant and easy access of cell phones, social media, and the internet has truly expanded bullying to an unthinkable, unending scale. There are many ways to bully someone online, including:
- Verbal attacks, mean messages, or rumors on social media accounts, online games such as Fortnite, or through email or text
- Releasing embarrassing or inappropriate pictures, GIFs, or videos online or through text (e.g. sexting)
- Creating fake profiles or hacking into someone’s account online in order to hurt that person
Perhaps one of the most dangerous things about cyberbullying is once something is posted online and is circulated, it’s very hard to permanently remove. This oftentimes makes escape from the bullying unusually difficult or even seemingly impossible. It’s so important to keep up with ways technology is advancing in order to protect ourselves from things like cyberbullying.
Effects of Bullying
The negative psychological effects of bullying are very real – for the bully, the victim, and those who may witness it.
For the bully, they have a greater risk of using substances, engaging in risky or violent behavior, being abusive in future relationships, committing crimes, and developing other external behavior problems.
Effects of bullying include low self-esteem, fear, loneliness, heartache, and potential physical illness. These effects put a widespread toll on the mental, physical, and social health of the victims and also those who witness bullying. The increased risk of using addictive and illegal substances, anxiety, depression, eating disorders or even becoming suicidal are to be taken seriously and should be treated appropriately. Seek out mental health professionals or physicians and consult with them on the best combination of treatment. These effects can last days, months, years, or even lifetimes depending on the person and the circumstance.
The Story of Amanda Todd
The story of Amanda Todd is an unfortunate real example of cyberbullying and how unforgiving and never-ending it can be. Amanda ultimately committed suicide to get away from it; she was only 15 years old. Her YouTube video, published in 2012 a month before she committed suicide, has 13.5 million views to date. To better understand the reality of bullying, please consider watching it or sharing it. However, viewer discretion is advised.
Bullying, harassment, discrimination, or any other type of negative, cruel, or harmful behavior is never okay or acceptable in any way. If you have been a witness of bullying or a bully, stand up to stop it! If you have been bullied or know someone who has, please seek help from caring professionals, family, or friends. Go-to resources are found below.
Stop Bullying Now Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- Available 24/7, managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Available 24/7, there is an online chat option available here
The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
- Available 24/7, suicide prevention help specifically for the LGBTQ+ community
- Texting and chat options are available here
National Eating Disorders Association: 1-800-931-2237
- Mon-Thu 9am-9pm, Fri 9am-5pm
National Center for Educational Statistics, Indicators of School Crime and Safety Indicator 10: Bullying at School and Electronic Bullying, April 2019.
Cyberbullying Research Center
The Amanda Todd Legacy