In spite of continuous efforts, bullying remains one of the severe public health problems, causing short- and long-term psychological consequences – not only for the child being bullied but also for the child who bullies.
According to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS), the problem is often approached in an unhealthy way. Instead of applying extreme measures – like suspending the bully – concerned parties should consider a multifaceted solution.
Making a tangible difference in the lives of children will require the involvement of federal and state agencies, local communities, schools, and – most importantly – families. The committee that wrote the report also believes social media and healthcare providers have their roles to play.
In the 311-page report called “Preventing Bullying through Science, Policy, and Practice,” the authors compiled an overview of the science behind the devastating effects of bullying. They also provided a “roadmap” for cutting the presence and impact of child bullying.
Committee president Frederick Rivara, MD, a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the University of Washington, explains that for a long time, bullying has been seen as “a rite of passage among children and adolescents.”
But despite the lackluster attitude against bullying, this behavior has negative consequences visible into adulthood – they can’t be ignored anymore.
Even though there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, the importance of bullying prevention is supported evidence, calling for “preventive and interventional policy and practice.”
It is difficult to estimate how many children and teenagers are affected by bullying, but it is estimated that 18 percent to 31 percent of children and youth have been faced with one form or another.
In the digital era that we live in, cyberbullying has also spread; its prevalence ranges from 7 percent to 15 percent. Rates are even higher for vulnerable subgroups, such as people with disabilities, obesity issues, or who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
The health consequences of bullying range from sleep disturbances and headaches to depression and severe anxiety.
According to some neurobiological research, “social pain is physical pain,” which simply highlights the serious nature of the experience of harassment.
During a media briefing, committee member Sandra Graham, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, noted that bullies are also more likely to suffer depression and have adverse health outcomes later in life.
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