Bullying has been around forever. Plato probably has stories he could tell. Today it’s getting even trickier for kids (and adults) to manage now that everyone and their baby has a cell phone and social media account. If a kid was being bullied in school before social media, they may have found some escape when they came home from school, but now with 24/7 social media, there’s no escaping it. The CDC reported that 15% of high school students said they were bullied electronically last year.
Short and long term effects of bullying
Bullying can lead to truancy from school, which can cause decreased academic learning, increased risk of substance abuse and difficulty with social relationships. Long-term risks include chronic depression, addiction, self-destructive behavior and suicidal thoughts.
“In September 2018, a report by YouthTruth found that 1/3 of students said they were bullied at school last year. According to USA Today, that’s an increase from two years ago, when one in four students reported having been bullied.”
Some of you may remember Burger King’s “No Bully” ad campaign. They set up an experiment with a group of high school kids picking on another kid in a Burger King. In their scenario only 12% of people stood up to bullying. Yes, it’s a commercial for Burger King, but it’s still a good example of how hard it is for people to work up the courage to step in, even adults.
The best way to help our kids is to be involved in their lives, to have open and honest conversations and to let them know the importance of standing up for others. Families are kids’ most important resource. The more quality time you spend with your kids, the better they will be at accessing their resilience.
A recent study found that young people with good family relationships are more likely to intervene when they witness bullying. Even though interventions are rare, peer interventions are very effective at stopping bullying. The study also found that sixth-graders were more likely to intervene when they spotted aggressive behavior than ninth-graders, which proves how important it is to continue anti-bullying efforts into high school.
5 things families can do to foster resilience:
- Increase quality time with extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins)
- Increase family activities (bike rides, game night, hikes, etc.)
- Talk about intergenerational family strengths, values and stories
- Share family meals
- Talk about social media and limit screen time for everyone (parents included)
We may not be able to end bullying completely, but we can equip our kids with the resources and confidence to be a part of the solution, not the problem. And as that Burger King commercial shows, adults could definitely use some help in this department too.