People sometimes trivialize bullying, dismissing peer victimization as a normal part of life. They view bullying as something that most kids experience in school, and that most kids overcome. Bullying can be a very serious problem, however, and the effects of bullying often linger after the bullying has stopped.
The different faces of bullying
It’s sometimes difficult to identify bullying. It’s not always the biggest kid in class poking and prodding the smallest kid in class. Peer victimization comes in many shapes and sizes, and it can look like many different things. Bullying may include things such as exclusion and name-calling, spreading rumors, or causing physical harm or emotional harm.
To make matters worse, bullying is no longer confined to incidents at school or on the playground. Cyber bullying – whether it’s bullying through social media, texting, sharing embarrassing photos, or some other form of abuse or harassment in a digital space – makes it possible for victims to be bullied any time any place, even from the safety of their own home. Homes used to offer protection from bullying, but cyber bullying means that a victim may be persecuted without rest.
Bullying isn’t always something that you can just shake off, walk off, or ignore. It can , of course, cause immediate physical and emotional harm, but bullying can have lasting effects on a person as well.
The lasting effects of bullying
The effects of physical bullying and physical abuse are easy to see, but all types of bullying are harmful. Bullying obviously harms the victim, but it can negatively affect the bully, and those who witness peer victimization as well.
Victims of bullying often experience increased anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness. These factors increase a person’s risk for suicide. Research has shown that these issues often continue into adulthood, well after bullying has stopped.
Peer victimization can also lead to unhealthy coping behaviors – such as substance abuse – as well as self-esteem and psychiatric problems.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, those who bully others may also suffer negative effects from bullying. Bullies are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as adults, engage in criminal behavior, and they’re more likely to be physically abusive towards others as adults.
Witnesses to incidents of peer victimization are more likely to experience depression and anxiety and use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.
Whether it’s the bully, the victim, or a witness to peer victimization, bullying can have negative effects that last a lifetime. It’s incredibly important to talk to your children about the dangers of bullying, and express the importance of speaking out against bullying. Teach your children what bullying and cyber bullying look like, and how they can help prevent it.