What can we do about the serious bullying problem in the U.S.?




October is National Bullying Prevention Month.  Recognizing that bullying is the leading source of violence in U.S. schools, it is important that we all understand the dangers of bullying, as well as, where and how to get help.


What causes bullying?

Bullying is a behavior that is often learned in response to stresses in the bully’s world. These stresses can include strained parental relationships or abuse, poor academic performance, unsupportive peer networks or anxiety regarding physical appearance. While bullies give off the appearance of confidence, it is often the case that their actions are driven by insecurities.


Harassing and overpowering others gives bullies a sense of superiority, making up for the lack of control in some other part of their lives. Surprisingly, many bullies are often motivated to abuse others because they have been victims of abusive behavior. The anger that they feel as a result of being hurt is directed toward other individuals.

What effect does bullying have on children?


Every day children suffer the devastating consequences that result from bullying in our schools. Bullying affects not only the children involved, but also has a negative impact on the entire school environment. Bystanders who witness bullying may either fear that they will be the next victims or deduce that this abusive behavior is tolerable.

Bullying causes both short and long term damage related to:

  • Mental Health: shame, fear, low self-esteem, depression, and suicide
  • Physical Problems: obvious bruises or wounds from harassment, sleep disruptions, bed wetting, psychosomatic pains
  • Social Difficulty: inappropriate social behavior, social isolation, inaccurate social perceptions
  • School Setting: difficulty concentrating, poor academic performance, absenteeism, overall school climate and breakdown of school connectedness, escalating school violence
  • Society: alcohol and drug abuse, gang involvement, violence and crime

Bullying is a serious problem that cannot be ignored. Statistics show that:

  • When asked about the major issues affecting youth today, more 8-15 year olds picked bullying than those who picked drugs, alcohol, racism, AIDS or peer pressure to have sex.
  • Victims of bullying are 5 times more likely to be depressed than their non-victimized peers.
  • Bullied boys are 4 times more likely to be suicidal and bullied girls are 8 times more likely to be suicidal than those who have not been affected by bullying.

The problem has become so serious that bullying has been increasingly considered as a public health issue plaguing our entire nation. Approximately 60% of the boys in grades 6-9 who are classified as bullies are later convicted of at least one crime by the time they are 24 years old and 40% have three or more convictions. It is imperative that we address bullying with school-age children in an effort to keep our schools and streets safer.

General advice for parents


As a parent you have the power to help your children whether they are being bullied or victimizing others. When faced with bullying, children need the support from an adult they feel comfortable confiding in. Although you may be unable to directly monitor the situation in your child’s school, you are not powerless. You can be the support your child needs and the voice calling for change in your child’s school.

Specific advice for parents:

  • Spend quality time with your child at home. Talk and listen to them.
  • Be a positive role model and surround you child with other positive role models. Respect others and stand up for yourself when people don’t respect you.
  • Teach your child at an early age not to be a bystander.  Encourage your child to tell a bully to stop, to de-escalate the situation (where appropriate) or to walk away and get help from an adult.  Teach your child that it is never appropriate to: 1) put down others, 2) escalate situations by responding “in-kind” to bullies, or 3) allow others to take videos/photos of personal moments or compromising situations.
  • Help your child to feel good about himself or herself in a healthy way. Encourage your child to set and reach goals.
  • Use positive discipline and teach non-violence.  Teach that using violence to solve problems or deal with anger only makes things worse.
  • If you’re worried about your child or yourself, seek help from school counselors, school support groups, private therapists or your family health-care provider.

To learn what you can do as parents or concerned citizens and for immediate help go to http://www.stopbullying.gov/

Dr. Scott Bonnis Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Drew University and a media expert.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq” and is currently writing a book about the public’s fascination with serial killers.  He is deeply concerned about the dangers of bullying. He is @DocBonn on Twitter.   





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Posted on October 4, 2012, in Bullying, Social Issues and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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