So before addressing Childhood bullying, one must note that Many people from generation to generation remember being bullied in school; it was that common. In fact the number of people who have not been bullied coming up through grade and high school is actually the minority, given all the possibilities of being picked on at one time or another. However, what has been described in the past as simply part of learning socialization and developing a backbone, has now become a clear hazard for kids going to an environment where they are supposed to be safe and receiving an education.
What is Childhood Bullying Today?
The basic acts of childhood bullying have not changed much in the last few decades. Instead, the behavior has become far more aggressive, damaging, spiteful and psychologically harmful. The acts of bullying essentially involve singling out an individual from a group and putting the person down, either mentally or physically or both, to make the person feel like he or she is less of value than others. The results can be both immediate and long-term. In the short term kids can be afraid to be anywhere they know the bullies will generally populate. In the long-term the target child can suffer from loss of self-confidence, self-worth, and stress.
School and childhood bullying in the modern world has also taken on an electronic face with social media. Because of the ease with which communication, images, video and comments can be shared through social media platforms, the damage can be immense to a target child. School cyber bullying via the Internet can spread damaging gossip through text, inappropriate photographs, and even video filming. With the simple tool of a smartphone or tablet, both of which are easily accessible, kids can invade privacy, create impressions of others out of context, and spread lies as quick as email and text can fly through cyberspace. With the effect launched one night, the target child can be suffering from everyone’s opinion, comments and slurs by first thing the next morning when arriving at school.
Effects of Childhood Bullying
As noted earlier the effects of bullying have two sides to them. The immediate impacts are quite familiar to anyone having been bullied. They include fear, being cornered without escape, being physically assaulted, taunts, insults, stress, anxiety and even depression. These impacts and reactions are all very common and involve natural responses to being bullied. However, the traditional response in most cases for years has been that kids will grow out of it, it toughens kids up for the real world outside, or it helps people build a backbone to bullies and the strength not to back down when threatened. Unfortunately, not every child in grade or high school can become an instant Spartacus gladiator in the arena of teen bullying. Many fall down and live in fear every day of school, feeling there is no safety in the educational facility system.
The long-term effects of bullying have been generally ignored for years, but now recent studies are finding there are fundamental shaping influences on people who have been bullied, lasting for years after their school experienced. Further, both people who have suffered bullying as well as those who did the acts are both realizing psychological effects as adults.
The JAMA Psychiatry Journal has published conclusions finding that those who were severely bullied as children are now far more susceptible to experiencing anxiety attacks when older, up four times more prone to such conditions than the average person experiencing stress as an adult. Further bullies who themselves had been bullied earlier and then continued the cycle on other victims were 15 times more likely to suffer anxiety problems and depression than the average adult. Those bullies who never suffered the sting of being picked up were lower, being on par with bullied students at 4 times a higher probability of anxiety attacks as an adult.
According to the Huffington Post, the JAMA study was unique because it was not a simple point-in-time snapshot survey. Instead, it tracked a population from their childhood through the mid-20s, interviewing the subjects at four distinct points to determine the long-term impacts of bullying, both on victims as well as those who committed the acts.
The conclusions of the study clearly found a causal link between psychological problems later in life from those who were involved in bullying, either as the recipient or the actor. The impacts have a huge impact on the confidence of people later in life, and they cause far more impacts mentally than any physical harm suffered. Further, many of the experts involved in the study drew comparisons between the mental conditions seen in adults involved in bullying with adults who suffered childhood abuse or harsh treatment at home. Finally, the JAMA study confirmed findings found in Finland in a previous study showing patterns of anxiety issues in those involved in bullying in their childhood.
Childhood Bullying: Recovery
Bullying also tends to be a very hard pain and injury to fully recover from it. Instead of healing, many bullying victims tend to build mental scars over their injuries, which then shape how they deal with adversity later on in life. Some shy away from conflict altogether, avoiding what they perceive as yet another scenario of being cornered. Others become aggressive themselves if they find a strength pushing back but then also becoming hard to deal with socially. They are often characterized as quick to anger, grumpy, serious, and uptight. What seems like anti-social adult behavior often tends to be, in fact, defenses built over time to hit back at any perceived threat to personal mental safety, according to Time magazine. Still others carry guilt and self-criticism for years, developing chronic stress and depression, blaming themselves for being weak or less than perfect. All of the above leads to a deteriorating self-confidence, which in turn eventually affects performance and socialization in life.
Childhood Bullying: Institutional Responses
Schools big and small are now under increasing pressure from parents and from regulatory sources to respond to bullying far more proactively. With multiple cases in the media where video has shown behavior that would result in arrest and imprisonment had it been performed by adults, cases of rape, cases of physical crimes, and cases of child suicide as a result of cyber-bullying, schools have been forced legally to step in and take action. The response from institutions, however, has been varied.
Some schools have gone to the Nth degree with prevention, chasing down any issue and drawing the ire of parents that they are now too strict and too trigger-happy, punishing students without any clear involvement in a bullying situation. Other schools are still at the other end of the spectrum, not responding until a child gets so hurt a crime is committed and the police investigate the issue.
Unfortunately, in some areas, a lack of any response has led to cases of extreme problems where the legal and criminal system then has to step in to “cure” the problem. The legal cure is nowhere close to anything considered educational. Instead, any party determined to be guilty of being a criminal bully is made a criminal example, facing years in youth authority systems and potential the adult penal system. By the time the convicted student is released back into society, any chance of learning a lesson is gone; he has gone through the ultimate bullying environment of prison and in many cases only knows how to survive.
For victims, the legal system fails to solve their issues as well. The long-term effects still remain, and seeing a bully go to prison provides an empty restitution. The sentencing is often years after the fact, and the victim’s personal life has been completely exposed during the trial. Many victims often feel re-victimized as a result of the trial’s process of allowing both prosecution and defense to grill victims and witnesses to prove a case. Then they have to pick up after the case and try to live a normal life. Often, many victims move away from their home location to escape the insults and hate of those who sided with perpetrators found guilty.
Childhood Bullying In Summary
The effects of bullying are not a made up thing. Even the federal government through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed its effects are real and lasting on children. A response to the issue has to involve a multi-front effort, however, to be effective. Schools need to take the issue seriously but with an objective, even hand. Parents need to reinforce the correct social behavior lessons to dampen and shut down bully behavior before it becomes chronic in a child. No one wants the final, effective solution to be a legal approach in court, but when no one pays attention, that is exactly what occurs. Just ask the City of Steubenville how their issue of teen bullying turned out horribly wrong for everyone involved.