Too often, we underestimate the impact bullying can have on children and young people. While as adults, we may be more resilient to deal with situations similar to bullying, children don’t yet have many of the coping and self-regulation skills we do.
Because of the use of social media and digital devices, many feel bullying among children and young people has become even more prevalent and severe. Young people who are the victims of bullying often don’t get to leave it behind because of cyberbullying.
There’s no place to go that allows children to be able to escape from these situations and it can significantly impact their quality of life, their education, and their mental health. Nearly 25% of school children endure chronic bullying, often leading to the use of the word “epidemic” to describe it.
As adults, whether parents, educators or both, we can work to understand not only the commonality of bullying and how to stop it but also the ongoing effects it can create when it becomes chronic.
The following are some of the most damaging effects of bullying on children and teens.
Emotional and Social Effects
Some of the effects of bullying are short-term and others are more long-term. The emotional and social effects can be both.
When a child or adolescent is the target of bullying, particularly when it’s ongoing, they may have trouble forming relationships that are healthy, including essential friendships.
A lot of this stems from the fact that bullying impacts their self-esteem.
When a child is bullied, they may start to believe the things that are said about them and believe they don’t deserve to have friends or people who care about them.
Emotionally, bullying can trigger a wide variety of feelings.
A bullied child may feel everything from anger and resentment to frustration and loneliness.
There is a term called learned helplessness that may apply to children who are bullied as well.
What this means is that kids start to believe they have no power over their own situation, so then they stop trying to make a change.
That can lead to depression and other problems down the road.
For many bullied children if the problem is ongoing, they will have trouble forming relationships later in their adult lives and may avoid interacting with others. A sense of distrust or self-blame may impact their relationships.
Mental Health Effects
Emotional and mental health effects tend to go hand-in-hand, but the mental health consequences of bullying are also worth talking about on their own.
Around 20% of people who were bullied as children eventually need medical treatment for a mental health problem as a young adult or teen. 23% of kids who were frequently bullied sought treatment for a psychiatric problem before they were 30.
Sometimes there are situations where a child that is bullied also bullies others.
These children tend to fare the worst in terms of the development of mental health problems later on.
One study showed that around 31% of children who were bullied and bullied others later had the highest rates of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and substance abuse.
There are many physical effects of bullying that can occur. There are the physical effects of the bullying itself, although not all bullying is physical.
Beyond that, bullying can lead to stress and anxiety, and that can cause serious health issues. For example, anxious children are more likely to deal with health problems like ulcers, headaches, and stomachaches.
Bullying can lead to changes in eating and sleeping habits, which can cause physical problems too.
When someone is bullied, their schoolwork and academics will likely suffer. Children who are bullied may have lower test scores and a lower GPA, and they may also show lower rates of participation in different things at school.
Bullied teens are more likely to skip or drop out of school.
Sometimes declining academic performance can be one of the first red flags to teachers or parents that bullying is going on.
There are a few main reasons bullying can significantly impact a child’s schoolwork. One is because they aren’t able to focus when they’re distracted by bullying.
Another is because kids or teens may want to avoid school to avoid being bullied.
When a child is bullied, it affects their family and the people who care about them.
For example, parents may themselves deal with anxiety or depression because they might not be able to help their child, or they may feel powerless. Sometimes parents of bullied children will become obsessed with trying to help their child, and it may impact their mental and physical health.
Parents of bullied children may start to worry there was something they could have done to prevent the problem, and that can lead to guilt and other issues.
Sometimes when a child is bullied they will then bring that aggression into their home, and they may bully a sibling also.
How Can You Help Your Child Deal with the Effects of Bullying?
There are things that can be done to stop or minimize the impact of bullying in the short- and long-term.
It’s important to first and foremost address the problem. Addressing it can help you identify the right ways to intervene, and you’ll also give your child an outlet to discuss the issues with you.
After that, and once the appropriate people at school have been notified, you can start helping your child reframe how they view the situation and themselves.
You want your child to gain an understanding that bullying doesn’t define who they are, and they should focus on moving forward productively rather than dwelling on the bullying.
Sometimes it can help your child to learn how to forgive a bully, as difficult as it may be. A child shouldn’t think about revenge but instead should look at healthy ways to regain control in his or her own life.