The Bullying Menace in the United States
For a long time, bullying has been a common problem in the United States. Traditional forms of bullying include verbal abuse and physical assault. The former mostly occurs in learning institutions, with a third of young people aged between 12 and 18 reporting having been bullied at some point in just one year. To add on to this problem, cyber bullying has emerged with an increase in proliferation of the internet and widespread use of social media platforms for common interactions among young people. Considering that cyberbullying occurs at anytime, anywhere, it becomes increasingly hard to tackle, and intervene. While various institutions have been able to address bullying, little has been done to control cyberbullying, contributing to a worrying statistics whereby cyberbullying increases with the increase in cellphones and social media platforms usage. Considering that bullying has been linked with suicidal behaviors and ideation, the government in conjunction with school administrators and nonprofits should take a proactive role in dealing with bullying. Although incidences of traditional forms of bullying may have reduced, the issue remains burdensome as cyberbullying is still on the rise.
During school years 2008-2009, over 7 million children aged between 12 and 18 reported having experienced bullying at school. This number represented 28 percent of all children in that age group in the United States. During the same period, over 1.5 million children (6 percent) in the same age group reported having experienced a form of cyberbullying in or off school. As of 2014, the situation had escalated further; with Modecki et al. (2014) reporting that up to 35 percent of students aged between 12 and 18 had been involved in traditional forms of bullying while 15 percent had been involved in cyberbullying. According to information provided by the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, 160,000 children skip school every day for the fear of being bullied. Witnesses to bullying have a role to play in the outcome of a bullying incidence. When a bystander intervenes, bullying typically stops within 10 seconds. Yet, intervention rates are really low, since a majority of bystanders; especially adults do not perceive bullying to be a serious issue worth addressing. Bullying victims also reported that supportive actions from peers like helping them to get away from bullies, advising, and even just talking to them were helpful.
There is evidence to the fact that some individuals are more likely to become victims of bullying. For instance, according to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, 55.2% of LGBT students have experienced some form of bullying. Moreover, overweight and obese children are more likely to be victims and perpetrators of bullying behaviors compared to their normal-weight peers (Janssen et al., 2004). The authors also observe that obese bullying is associated with adverse mental health outcomes. The negative mental health outcomes of bullying inform on the links between bullying and suicidal behavior. While offending is loosely associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors, the bullying victims are more likely to have these behaviors. This suggests that suicide intervention and prevention could begin with countering bullying both at school and online.
Different scholars have also found a link between bullying and gun violence. According to Arizona Youth Risk Behavior surveys completed in 2011, bullying victims were 5.5% more likely to carry guns and were 4 times more likely to attempt suicide. While these surveys suggest that bullying victims were likely to carry guns for the purpose of committing suicide, factors like depressive symptoms and aggravation could easily lead these individuals to commit gun violence, including the now common mass-murders in school environments. Other than suicidal thoughts, gun violence, and adverse mental health outcomes, bullying has other wide-ranging impacts. For instance, according the National Center for Educational Statistics, students who experience bullying are less likely to adjust in schools properly and are more likely to be sleep-deprived, suffer anxiety disorders, and be depressed (Zhang et al., 2016). Both aggressors and victims are also likely to have behavior problems that stem from poor mental health. Bullying victims are also likely to have self-esteem issues and are likely to have strained relationships with peers and even members of their families.
There is urgent need to address the issue of bullying, which has become a menace in the United States. While efforts have been put towards addressing traditional forms of bullying in learning institutions, the issue remains burdensome as incidences of cyberbullying continue to escalate. As observed in this discussion, the effects of bullying range from gun violence, suicide ideation, poor adjustment in schools, anxiety disorders, sleep deprivation, and depression. These incidences point to the need for the government to work in conjunction with school heads and nonprofits to deal with the problem once and for all.
Janssen, I., Craig, W. M., Boyce, W. F., & Pickett, W. (2004). Associations between overweight and obesity with bullying behaviors in school-aged children. Pediatrics, 113(5), 1187- 1194.
Modecki, K. L., Minchin, J., Harbaugh, A. G., Guerra, N. G., & Runions, K. C. (2014). Bullying prevalence across contexts: A meta-analysis measuring cyber and traditional bullying. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55(5), 602-611.
Romero, A., Bauman, S., Ritter, M., & Anand, P. (2017). Examining adolescent suicidal behaviors in relation to gun carrying and bullying. Journal of School Violence, 16(4), 445- 458.
Zhang, A., Musu-Gillette, L., & Oudekerk, B. A. (2016). Indicators of school crime and safety: 2015. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, US Department of Education, and Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice, 1-221.