Currently, many schools and communities provide an abundance of information about bullying. There are school and community programs across the globe designed to help students deal with bullies, but how affective are anti-bullying strategies? Bullying is not always obvious or easy for parents and teachers to identify, and with new studies suggesting that the effects of childhood bullying can last well into middle age, it is important for parents and guardians to address the issue and provide prevention tactics for children who need help dealing with a bully.
A recent study has revealed that the psychological effects of bullying can last nearly a lifetime, and severe bullying can affect a person’s well-being in many ways. The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry followed over 7000 British children born within a week of 1958, tracking them as they aged. For five decades, they were asked about their social relationships and mental health, as well as their professional and economic situations. The life-long study revealed that most people who had been bullied experienced greater psychological distress later in life. Being a victim of bullying also put the subjects at greater risk for depression, anxiety and suicide. In addition, the study revealed that children who experience frequent childhood bullying obtain a lower level of education and have a higher likelihood of unemployment, and adult victims of childhood bullying were less likely to have healthy relationships with both romantic partners and friends.
With information suggesting that bullying affects people well into adulthood, early intervention is increasingly important. Bullying is not always evident, especially within the world of cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying is systematic, and can often follow the victim into their home, preventing them from maintaining a safe place away from aggression. Parents with a lack of information may not know how to manage bullying that occurs within the realm of social media. Parents and guardians must arm their children with prevention tactics to prevent potential life-long negative consequences.
Kennedy Elementary School in Detroit has recently implemented a program for female students called Girls Stand Strong. Young girls in the program learn how to stand up to bullies, but also how to avoid becoming a bully themselves. The program focuses on being a good friend and finding good friends, and provides ways for young girls to cope with their feelings. Another program for girls called Girls On the Run mixes physical exercise with self-confidence training. Offered through the Boys & Girls Club, it incorporates exercise and physical activity as an anti-bullying strategy, and includes answering questions about bullying between running laps.
Keeping children active and focused on their interests may have a large impact on not only the victims but the aggressors as well. Learning how to manage anger is key to preventing impulsive decision making, and having a healthy outlet for emotions could provide children with an alternative to lashing out or withdrawing from their social sphere. Teaching children empathy, and providing them with better tactics to prevent bullying may make all the difference for children in the future.
Commentary By Sandra Pugliese