Well, another summer has flown by and a new school year has begun. Excitement is in the air. New school clothes and supplies have been purchased. Will I like my teacher? Will my new friends be in my class? These are typical questions for many children.
But for some kids, the beginning of the school year evokes a profound sense of despair and dread. They are children who are victims of traditional school bullying and cyberbullying.
Traditional school bullying and cyberbullying recently have become hot topics as we have begun to recognize they directly are linked to an increase in teen suicide and school shootings. It is not a secret that the aftermath can be quite tragic.
Recent studies have shown consistently that about 1/3 of all students in grades nine through 12 have reported they were subjected to some form of bullying at least once throughout their school career.
About 60 percent of cyberbullying victims also were targets of traditional school bullying. Victimization was highest among nonheterosexually identified students. Girls were more likely to report cyberbullying whereas there was little gender differences among traditional school bullied individuals.
The use of the term "cyberbullying" has become prominent in the past 10 years. It refers to the use of electronic devices for purposes of intentionally humiliating or threatening another person.
We have heard of "hate clubs" where two or three kids will create a "we hate so-and-so club." This can create a tremendous sense of anxiety in the individual and can pummel their self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
How teens perceive their popularity with other students has a profound impact on how they see themselves. Now, imagine bullies having the capability of broadcasting their message digitally, reaching perhaps hundreds of the victim's peers. They may gossip or send compromising photos.
Websites have been created with the sole purpose of embarrassing another individual. Cyberbullying allows the bully to perform these actions anonymously. Often victims don't know who their bully is and why they are being targeted.
The influence on self-esteem and self-worth is obvious. However, less apparent is the link to depression and self-destructive behaviors, conduct problems, decreasing psychological attachment to their school and community resulting is less academic learning and significant dropping of test scores and grades. Studies also have linked bullying with an increased risk for drug and alcohol abuse.
It is important to note that when discussing bullying, we need to differentiate bullying from normal conflict resolution. Conflict between children is normal and needs to be understood within the context of their maturity and developmental stage. All children need to undergo the process so they can develop appropriate strategies for dealing with conflict later in life.
We also need to recognize that most bullies have been bullied themselves and also need support and counseling.
Parents and educators should not only deal with bullying as it occurs but may choose to consider a proactive approach toward its prevention. Parents can be positive role models for their children and promote healthy values and communication that will assist their children in developing their own appropriate conflict resolution styles.
Schools can help by identifying at-risk children and providing counseling and support for both victims and perpetrators. Creating peer conflict resolution programs can help student negotiate conflict appropriately. Facilitating a positive school environment and encouraging students and parents to become involved is crucial.
Together, parents and educators can curb bullying and its influence on children.
Neil is a psychologist at Stocki & Neil Counseling Associates, P.C. Visit the website at www.lycominghealthyliving.com.