Bullies have always existed, but with social media and 24x7 internet access with smartphones, it is a growing problem that is putting our children’s lives at risk. Bullying is a form of abuse. It includes emotional, physical, sexual, and cyber. The children and teens being bullied struggle with anxiety, and many also have suicidal ideation, and some sadly are taking their own lives.
“Bullying is killing our kids. Being different is killing our kids, and the kids who are bullying are dying inside. We have to save our kids whether they are bullied or bullying. They are all in pain.” ~ Cat Cora
People who bully are likely to have trauma from neglect or abuse. They have low emotional intelligence and low self-esteem. It seems the more people hate themselves, the more they want to hurt others.
Watching your child struggle at school and withdraw from friends and activities is heartwrenching. You want to fix everything but can’t. No matter how much you try to build their confidence and how much love you give them, it is not enough to replace the damage done to their soul.
Bullying is not just kids working out issues on their own or establishing dominance. There is a strong link between bullied kids and suicide, and the topic needs to be addressed.
My son was bullied in junior high. He, like most kids who are bullied, tried to hide it. He was not only embarrassed but afraid if he snitched, it would get worse. He pretended to be sick to avoid going to school. His mood changed from always being happy-go-lucky to depressed. He stopped playing lacrosse mid-season and claimed his knees hurt too badly. I finally started seeing enough signs. I asked if he was being bullied. He broke down in tears and told me about it. It seemed he was relieved to tell me finally.
I immediately called his school and notified them. There was not much they could do because my son refused to give the name of the bully. They do have a zero-tolerance policy on bullying, but that did not do much good. The bully was tripping him, knocking books out of his hands, and making fun of him. I ended up trying an online school program. That was not helpful because he was more lonely. He went back to his public school the following year and did well. He worked out the issues with the bully, but that is often not the case.
In preparation for this article, I asked my daughter, who graduated high school six years ago, if she had ever been bullied. I was saddened when she said yes. She explained hers was mostly caddy girl stuff. But, leaving someone out, belittling, name-calling, kicking them out of a friend group, or ignoring someone is all a form of bullying. She also told me that she went to the school officials to share that she had reason to believe her best friend was contemplating suicide. They did nothing, and he ended up in the hospital and had psychiatric treatment for two months after a failed suicide attempt.
Whether or not your child has been affected by bullying, we need to spread awareness about how detrimental bullying is. Sometimes it happens to the most beautiful or handsome kids, sometimes to the smartest, and sometimes its the kids who have special needs or who declare a unique sexual preference. It is never okay.
Twelve Startling Stats
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death in children 10–24 years old.
- For every suicide, there are another 100 attempts.
- Over 14% of high school students have contemplated suicide.
- Bully victims are 9% more likely to commit suicide.
- Suicide as a result of cyberbullying is 7.6%.
- One out of five middle to high school kids is bullied each year.
- 6Th-grade students report the highest level of bullying at 29%.
- 59% of teens have been bullied online.
- Gamers are at a higher risk for cyberbullying.
- More than 8 out of ten who identify as LBGTQ experience bullying.
- 90% of teens admit that online harassment is problematic.
- 80% think others cyberbully because they think it’s funny.
Protecting Our Children
Parents, keep an eye on your child’s social media. Instagram has the highest rate of cyberbullying. Kids post inappropriate photos and spread false rumors. Monitor their snap chat account too. It is mindblowing the sexting and pictures that get exchanged.
Talk to school officials if your child is being bullied. Encourage your child to become active and make positive connections at school. Being involved in a club or sport builds self-esteem and creates a great support network. Teach them problem-solving and communication skills.
I know a freshman in highschool who after declaring he was gay was beaten up and depants in the school bathroom. Soon after he recieved a death threat. The student who sent the threat was suspended a couple days and then returned and continued thee same behavior. If you do not get results and protection for your child from the school contact the media and request a news story or consider pressing charges against the bully.
Unfortunately, There Are Many Fallen Victims
My heart aches for the parents and families of those beautiful souls who simply couldn’t take it anymore and ended their lives. It is a tragedy that those families will never overcome.
~ Amanda Michelle Todd, 15 years old, was cyberbullied and hung herself.
~ Isabella Tichenor, 10 years old, was bullied and belittled, and a teacher even contributed.
~ Austin McEntyre, 15 years old, shot himself after being bullied.
These are a small sample of true stories. It makes no difference your socio-economic background. There is bullying everywhere.
Warning Signs Of Suicide
- Over or under sleeping
- Talking about death
- Cutting or other self-inflicted harm
- Giving away possessions
- Saying they can’t take it anymore
- Making comments that things would be better without them
Sadly, sometimes there are no red flags or tell signs. Practice awareness and just be as supportive as possible.
Preventing Bullying By Raising Emotional Intelligence
Emotions are at the core of bullying. One-third of all American kids report cases of being bullied. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize emotion in the self and others. It is the ability to process, express, and regulate emotions.
Integrating emotional intelligence into the school curriculum could reduce the amount of bullying. Education has to start with the teachers and school administration. The good news is there is always time to increase emotional intelligence. Integrating EI into the curriculum will equip tweens and teens with empathy, confidence, and communication skills that will prevent domestic violence as adults.
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” ~ Aristotle
We need to be instilling respect and character in our children. We need to teach them personal responsibility. We must teach them how to be caring and empathetic with their peers. Unfortunately, many children are abused or neglected at home. Their parent might have an addiction, be a narcissist, or work long hours. If these skills are not modeled at home, teaching emotional intelligence and incorporating them in daily lessons will be critical for their success.
Life is hard enough for teens and tweens without bullying. Teaching emotional intelligence skills will help them cope with stress and manage anxiety. The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence named its social and emotional approach RULER. They offer teachers resources and coaching support. They encourage incorporating self-awareness, mindfulness, and social communication skills. I am grateful to know more schools are attempting this practice.
Talk to your children regularly. Ask specific as well as open-ended questions to allow them to talk openly. Build their self-esteem by telling them when you are proud of them and letting them know you appreciate them. Sometimes just asking how they are can save a life.
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