October is National Bullying Prevention Month

The word "bullying" being erased by a pencil eraser

When we send our children to school, we hope that they’ll make friends, learn a lot, and generally thrive. However, according to research by the Institute of Education Services, around 20% of students from the ages of 12–18 are bullied at school.

This statistic might be surprising, but the sad truth is that many of our children are the victims of bullying during and even after school, and in some extreme cases, can even lead to your child being injured. That’s why it’s vitally important for you and your children to be aware of bullying, and to know the signs.

What Is Bullying?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines bullying as any “unwanted, aggressive behavior … involving a real or perceived power imbalance.” Bullying is repeated over time, and can cause serious, lasting issues, both in the kids who are bullied and those doing the bullying, and, in some cases, may even be a violation of federal law.

Types of Bullying

Bullying comes in many forms, but its effects are the same. Each of these involves an imbalance of power, such as popularity, physical strength, or the ability to embarrass via rumor or other information.

  • Verbal bullying includes spoken or written words intended to harm. These can include taunting, threats of physical violence, calling names, or inappropriate comments.
  • Social bullying involves sabotaging the victim’s relationships or reputation. Behaviors such as leaving someone out of an activity, spreading rumors about them, or embarrassing them in public can all be considered social bullying.
  • Physical bullying behaviors, such as hitting, kicking, punching, pushing, breaking someone’s possessions, and others, hurt the victim’s body or things.

Effects of Bullying

A bullying incident can affect everyone involved—not just the victim, but the perpetrator and even witnesses as well. It’s been linked to multiple negative impacts on mental health, including a greater risk of substance abuse and suicide.

A girl crying while being pointed at and bullied in a stairwell

Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience

  • Depression and anxiety, along with related symptoms like loneliness, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, and a loss of interest in activities that used to bring them joy
  • Complaints about their health
  • Decreased involvement in school, including a lower GPA and test scores and a greater likelihood of skipping or dropping out of school

On the other side, even kids who bully others engage in unhealthy behaviors, even into adulthood. These kids are more likely to do the following:

  • Abuse alcohol and other drugs
  • Vandalize property
  • Drop out of school
  • Start fights
  • Be abusive as adults

Even children who witness bullying are affected, and experience an increased risk of tobacco, alcohol, or drug use, as well as mental health problems.

Bullying Can Happen Online or via Text

Of the students who reported being bullied to the Institute of Education Services, a full 15% of them reported that they were bullied via text or online. Online or text-based bullying can be just as harmful as in-person bullying, as well as less obvious to the casual observer.

Cyberbullying is tragically common online, on social media, and over text and instant messaging. Sometimes, it can even cross the line into criminal behavior, but even when it doesn’t it can lead to mental health problems and an increased risk for self-harm.

Cyberbullying can be more persistent than in-person bullying, as well as more permanent and harder to notice. It’s imperative to keep an open line of communication with your children, or those in your care, to determine if they’re the victims or perpetrators of cyberbullying.

How to Help

National Bullying Prevention Month was established in 2006 as a way to spread awareness about the pandemic of bullying in American schools, playgrounds, and other places kids hang out. Addressing, talking about, and preventing bullying is something all of us can do every day.

Stop Bullying at School

A drawing of a stick figure crying with anti-bullying messaging drawn around it

If you’re a teacher or educator, strive to create a supportive learning environment that’s safe, positive, inclusive, and respectful. Teachers can reward students for positive social behavior, and schools should communicate their policies around bullying to parents, teachers, students, and staff so everyone knows that the behavior won’t be tolerated. If you suspect your child is being bullied at school, it’s imperative that you speak with their teachers as well as school administrators so they can take appropriate action and prevent the harm your child is experiencing at the hands of their peers.

Talk About Bullying at Home

Parents are not only the primary support for their children, but the primary role models as well. If you think your child is being bullied, talk to them with open-ended questions to invite self-advocacy, both in the physical and digital realms. You can also set the expectation that bullying is never okay to perpetrate by talking to your children frankly and openly. Maintaining an open line of communication with  your child can help you recognize the signs of bullying and prevent it from escalating further.

For further information on what you or your child can do in the face of bullying, you’ll find a number of helpful online resources designed to help identify, prevent, and address the effects of being bullied.

Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys Supports National Bullying Prevention Month

The capital G logo for Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys

Many of the clients we work with have been victims of bullying—whether that takes the form of road rage, bullying that results in injuries at school, or others. We see the effects of bullying every day.

That’s why Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys supports National Bullying Prevention Month. This October, talk to your kids and the other children in your life about bullying. Together we can make the world a better, more equitable place.