Childhood bullying a serious public health concern: study
Bullying is still seen as a thing done by children in school, but a study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine warned that childhood bullying is a “serious public health problem.”
The study, partly sponsored by the Centers on Disease Control, noted that there are “significant short- and long-term psychological consequences for both the targets and perpetrators of such behavior.”
What’s more, the study warned that zero-tolerance policies against bullying may not be effective against it.
Consequences of childhood bullying
The report noted that the consequences of childhood bullying is felt by those who get bullied and those who do the bullying, from sleep disturbances to gastrointestinal concerns, to headaches.
The study further said that bullying affects between 18 to 31 percent of children and young people, with cyberbullying affecting from 7 to 15 percent. More importantly, kids who have disabilities, obese, or are LGBT have higher percentages.
Unfortunately, the study discovered that reporting of bullying incidences is also problematic as children avoid talking about it because they fear the consequences.
The study likewise concluded that programs that promote a positive school environment and combine social and emotional skill-building for all students work better than schools that have zero-tolerance policies.
The latter type of policies impose automatic suspension or expulsion of students from school after one bullying incident.
“Zero tolerance policies have not had an impact in keeping schools safer and could have adverse consequences,” the expert panel behind the study said.
Prevalence of childhood bullying
This study confirms what earlier other findings have made: that there are long-term effects to bullying that last until adulthood, and that the LGBT still suffer from bullying more than their straight counterparts.
In fact, a 2013 study by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) noted that LGBT youth were more bullied or harassed online and via text messages as compared to non-LGBT youth.
In their study, LGBT youth say they were bullied online nearly three times more as their non-LGBT compatriots (42% versus 15%). Moreover, they were twice as likely to have been harassed via text message (27% versus 13%).
Policies against childhood bullying
One study reported that states that have implemented protections against bullying resulted in bullying going down.
However, the study noted that the legislated protections require local school districts to develop and implement their own local policies.
This, in turn, would be problematic if the polices are zero-tolerance type rather than those that promote a more positive focus instead.
“Bullying has long been tolerated as a rite of passage among children and adolescents, but it has lasting negative consequences and cannot simply be ignored,” said committee chair Frederick Rivera, Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild Endowed Chair in Pediatric Research and professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the University of Washington.
“This is a pivotal time for bullying prevention, and while there is not a quick fix or one-size-fits-all solution, the evidence clearly supports preventive and interventional policy and practice,” Rivera said to address childhood bullying.