As I mentioned last weekend, I spent this week supporting my friend Ooph as she addressed the topic of bullying on her Whatever Nation site. She gathered some remarkable stories from across the blogosphere of parents of kids being bullied, a parent OF a bully, and adults who lived through bullying. Every story opened my eyes to a new perspective in one way or another. Click on that Don’t be a Butthead button and scroll through the postings. Read the comments too because in one particular post it was a couple of commenters who stunned me more for their lack of awareness than anything. And the last one posted? Well she related her tale of how bullying left an indelible mark on her psyche – and then the bully herself left a comment! The following is what I put together for the series with my own commentary added on some very sobering statistics on bullying.
Whenever we come across hard topics in life, it often helps to look at things in black and white. For me, that means numbers. There is a comfort in knowing that 1+1=2. ALWAYS. No gray, no nuance, no opinions, just facts. As the mom of a teenager, it seems like every topic is hard. As Ooph put it so well, it’s like a million water balloons are being dropped down on you constantly and you spend all your energy just trying to stay dry. Bullying is one of those water balloons.
My family has been lucky. I was not ever a victim of it despite being the odd girl in almost every childhood social situation. My older son got a taste of it in middle school from a kid named Massimo and to this day (at 25), he won’t buy clothes at Target because of it. He was saved by the tormentor going to a different high school (phew!) My 14 year old got a taste in 6th grade and was also saved by the school split as he and his bully went off to different middle schools. Ironically they then came back together as freshmen in high school, but also as football teammates and suddenly they are on even footing and have not only come to a truce but even willfully hung out together at the varsity game last week. Like I said – lucky!
Still, both my boys would have had to answer “yes” if they were asked in a survey if they had been bullied. As the statistics show, they encountered it during those prime years of grades 6-10. Again, they got lucky – their bullies were removed from them thanks to district boundaries and school choice programs.
But is it all really that bad, or is it the case where the media has been focusing on it more and more so it just *seems* to be? I wish the numbers showed a rosier picture, but they do not. The following are from Groundspark.org and were from surveys gathered within the last 10 years:
- 64% of youth are teased at least once a month and nearly 1/3 of youth are bullied at least once a month
- 6 out of 10 American teens witness bullying at least once a day.
- For children in grades 6-10, nearly 1 in 6 – or 3.2 million are victims of bullying each year and 3.7 million are bullies.
Did you notice that last stat? There are more bullies than victims! That supports the stories you hear of one child being harassed by multiple bullies.
More on the reasons for bullying:
- In one school year, ¼ of students across grades reported that they had been harassed or bullied on school property because of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability.
- Nearly 1/3 of middle schoolers have been the object of sexual jokes, comments or gestures. Another 15% have been harassed because of religion or race.
- For every LGBT student who reported being harassed, 4 straight students said they were harassed for being perceived as gay or lesbian.
I’ll come back to LGBT issues. As we’ve learned with the stories recently in the news, they have sadly become targeted even more.
We know about the ultimate consequence to the victims – suicide – but what else?
- An estimated 160,000 kids miss school every day out of fear of attack or intimidation by other students
- 1 out of every 10 students who drops out does so because of repeated bullying
- Victims of bullying are more likely to suffer physical problems such as common colds and soughs, sore throats, poor appetite and night waking.
- The effects of bullying can be long lasting. By age 23, children who were bullied in middle school were more depressed and had lower self-esteem than their peers who had not been bullied.
- Harassment and bullying have been linked to 75% of school shooting incidents, including the fatal shootings at Columbine High School near Littleton, Colorado and Santana High School in Santee, California.
What about cyber bullying? This is a relatively new phenomenon that has cropped up even since my oldest was in school. From the website Isafe.org are the following sobering stats:
- 42% of kids have been bullied while online. 1 in 4 had it happen more than once.
- 35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly 1 in 5 had it happen more than once.
- 21% of kids have received mean or threatening email messages.
- 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out of 10 said it happened more than once.
- 53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.
- 58% of kids have not told their parents or an adult about the mean or hurtful things that happened to them online
Look at those last 3 in particular. More than half have been bullied or did the bullying online. More than half keep completely quiet about it.
Now on to the final topic – LGBT kids and bullying. We know that the 9 cases of suicide that were reported in the last three weeks were all related to being bullied of sexual orientation or perceived orientation. That is a topic for a whole post/rant of it’s own from me which would get very heated. Sadly, the statistics support my anger at the closed minded amongst us. This last group of statistics is from The Trevor Project. An invaluable website that is THE place to go for helping LGBT youth navigate these often treacherous waters.
- 9 out 10 (86.2%) of LGBT students experienced harassment at school.
- 3/5ths (60.8%) felt unsafe at school due to their sexual orientation.
- 1/3 (32.7%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe.
- 90% of LGBT students have been harassed or assaulted this past year.
How mind numbingly outrageous are those stats? Words fail me as I try to comprehend the nightmare it must be for these children. My normally reliable numbers have failed me completely. There is no reassurance here. No lovely black & white logic to make sense of this issue. I need to take a deep breath and see those stark numbers for what they are: proof that parents have got to keep their ever loving heads out of the sand and talk talk talk talk talk to their kids. Do not for a moment think bullying has not touched them. Specifically, do not for a moment live under the assumption that your child has is not capable of being a bully themselves. Take it seriously if there are complaints filed about him or her. Do not sweep it under the rug to save face. Because while you are saving your own reputation, another child’s life could be lost forever.
Everybody has to quit looking the other way–especially teachers, since they are most likely to see it.