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Effects of Bullying

Effects of Bullying

Bullying is common in our children's lives: at home, on the bus, in school, on the playground, at the park or at after-school programs. While schools and agencies do their part to reduce or prevent bullying, parents, children and teens can become more aware of the effects of bullying on others.

There are three primary groups of children who are affected by bullying:

  • Children as victims of bullying.
  • Children exhibiting bullying behavior.
  • Children who are bystanders to bullying. (They witness it and don't do anything to stop it).

Sometimes the same child will experience all three roles in a single day!

For example: Imagine a third-grader who gets picked on mercilessly by his middle-school age brother as he waits for the bus about his really bad "bedhead." Though the parents have punished the older brother for his taunting, he has learned to do it where he won't be caught. The third-grader goes to school and takes some of his frustration out on another child in the cafeteria at lunch time, threatening him if he sits at his table. And on the playground he watches as group of his friends play keep away with a younger child's hat and mittens, finally throwing them over the fence.

The effects of bullying on children's emotional well-being are cause for concern.

Effects of being victimized by bullying

  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Living in fear and torment
  • Health complaints
  • Missed school days
  • Poor academic achievement
  • Emotional turmoil
  • Loneliness
  • Physical abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts and gestures

Engaging in bullying behavior can increase your risk for:

  • Behavior problems such as fighting
  • Drinking alcohol and smoking as a teenager
  • Criminal behavior as an adult
  • Being abusive in relationships with partners and children as an adult
  • Poor social and emotional adjustment
  • Social isolation

Effects on bystanders who witness bullying experiences

Bystanders also experience significant effects when they witness a bullying event—most children will experience this role during their school years. For some children they become anxious about the situation. They can tell it is wrong, that someone is being hurt. Yet they may feel helpless to take action.

They may worry that if they try to stop the bullying they will become the next victim or fall out of the social-friend group. They may feel guilt for not doing something to stop the bullying or for their participation in the bullying. Sometimes they think the victim deserves the bullying. Sometimes they don't know the victim and don't feel it is their place to intervene. Sometimes it does not feel safe to intervene.

Different types of bystanders

  • Some participate in initiating the bullying
  • Some laugh or give attention to the bullying, thereby encouraging it
  • Some join in the bullying once it starts
  • Some are silent. This silence is most often misinterpreted by the bully as support for the bullying. It is also interpreted by the victim as a betrayal and support for the bully.
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