In recent years, accounts of bullying have played across national media, and much of the discussion has focused on cyberbullying and bullying within schools.
But bullying is no longer just in classrooms and on playgrounds—it’s everywhere, and it can follow a person from childhood to adulthood and into the workplace.
Walden University’s faculty, alumni, and students shed light on the topic of bullying through dedicated research, hard work, and passion. They also address other aspects of bullying and its underlying effects, which aren’t always discussed but are equally important.
Bullying continues to be pervasive among adolescents. Targets of bullies are more likely than non-targets to consider suicide, leading to nearly 4,600 young lives lost each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One study has shown that adolescents who are bullied by their peers actually suffer from worse long-term mental health issues than children who are physically, emotionally or sexually abused by their parents or are exposed to severely inadequate parenting. Long term effects for those who were bullied and survive the challenging tween and teenage years include anxiety and/or depression, and possibly even self-harming behavior and/or suicide later in life.
How do you address bullying earlier to stop the cycle? “The better job we do to empower adolescents to manage these issues between and among themselves, the better chance we have at developing adults who don’t model or engage in bullying behaviors,” says Dr. Colleen Logan, past president of the American Counseling Association and Walden University’s program director for the MS in Couple, Marriage, and Family Counseling and M.S. in Addiction Counseling programs.
“Young people are already taking on the responsibility to manage bullying in their own circles,” adds Dr. Logan. Recently a Florida State University football player sat in the lunch room with a boy who has autism and always eats by himself. In Omaha, Nebraska, a group of students raised money for a deaf student whose books, tablet, school supplies and cochlear implant were dumped in the toilet. And a teen from Los Angeles, who endured severe bullying in middle school, created the app Sit With Us, so that no one will ever have to sit alone at lunch.
"No longer are kids bystanders silently watching the bullying behavior. Many are upstanders who intervene and say it’s not OK.” Dr. Logan wants to make sure we’re preparing kids with the right tools and knowledge to peacefully engage with their peers to help curb the epidemic.
Dr. Logan offers the following tips for encouraging upstander behavior:
- Remember the golden rule. If you see something, say something. Use simple interrupting statements such as “That’s not OK” or “You can’t treat people like that” or even “Please stop.” Kids get the message that it’s bad to bully and it’s good to interrupt the bullying.
- Positively reinforce those who stand up. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to bullies and you should be proud of the upstander. Be specific with your praise. For example, “I really like how you stand up for Susie” or, “I like how you asked Billy to stop talking or behaving that way.”
- Discourage physical intervention, encourage adult involvement. Standing up doesn’t mean jumping into the fray during physical bullying situations. Upstanders have to be willing to get responsible adults involved and report incidents so proper action can be taken.
- Stay involved. Even while encouraging kids to be empowered, parents need to remain involved and continue to watch what their kids do and say both face-to-face and online.
- Maintain zero tolerance. Zero tolerance needs to occur but the policy should also evolve, recognizing that kids are now taking on some of the responsibility. Acknowledging good behavior will encourage more of the same.