Bullying has always been around, from children in the sandbox picking on the one that looks different to older kids beating up the smaller one. These days it has become much more prevalent and widespread, partially because bullying isn’t limited to face-to-face interaction. Cyberbullying is something we are now dealing with at our facilities for alcohol and drug rehab in NC and Ohio. This type of bullying allows people to use the internet or cell phones to send messages to others that can be hurtful and just downright mean.
Hiding behind a screen can make it easier for people to say things they would never say in person. They can also hide behind the anonymity of a screen name and encourage others to join in without risk of getting caught.
Bullying stigmatizes and demeans the person on the receiving end. It can cause problems with self-esteem and can lead to depression and anxiety. Recent studies have shown that one in five high school students has been bullied. The older kids get, the worse it can become. Innocent teasing can turn into calling someone names based on perceived intelligence, sexual experience or sexual preferences. They can cause rumors to start that lead peers to believe negative things about that person that aren’t even true.
Females are often “slut shamed,” which is when someone is criticized for her real or presumed sexual experience and history. Males are less likely to experience this because their sexual experiences tend to be seen as positive, but women are generally stigmatized for their sexuality.
Bullying isn’t limited to name calling, either. The culprits can create incidents to embarrass the person they are bullying. It can also become violent, with someone, or a group of people, purposely trapping someone in order to fight them. Physical bullying is more common among boys than girls.
Cyberbullying can occur online on social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. People can also send text messages and photos in group texts in order to bully someone, in sort of a modern day slam book. Photos and videos can be manipulated to show the person being bullied in embarrassing or compromising situations, even though they are not real.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, over 800 students from 13 to 17 years old were surveyed about cyberbullying. Researchers found that 24 percent had been a victim of at least one form of cyberbullying. About 15 percent said they have experienced it twice, and eight percent were victims three different times.
It’s a growing problem that doesn’t end when the bullying stops. It can lead to problems that, if not resolved, can affect an individual later in life. Teenagers who experience bullying are more likely to have issues with depression, panic attacks, anxiety and even agoraphobia as adults.
These issues don’t always wait until later in life to appear. A 2013 study form the Journal of American Medical Association said there was an increased risk of depression and suicide in bullied children, even after the bullying stops.
A separate study done a few years earlier indicates that if a child is bullied frequently, he or she has an increased risk factor for depression along with suicidal thinking and active suicide attempts.
When someone has issues with depression and anxiety, it can lead to drug and alcohol abuse because the person doesn’t know how to cope. A study published in Prevention Science surveyed 1500 10th graders and found that those who had been bullied had experienced depression that could be related to an increased likelihood to have a substance abuse problem. However, it was only linked in females, not males.
If you think your child has been the victim of bullying and is struggling to cope with it by turning to drugs or alcohol, call Legacy Freedom. Speak with a counselor about our options for alcohol and drug rehab in NC and Ohio. We have treatment programs that allow your child to stay in school while getting the help he or she needs. Keep reading to learn more about bullying and how it may be linked to substance abuse.
A separate article in Science Daily, published in 2005, showed concern over the connection between bullying and drug or alcohol problems. Researchers followed 223 students in grades five through seven until they reached high school. They found the following:
- 85 percent of boys reported verbal harassment
- 78 percent of girls had experienced verbal harassment
- 71 percent of boys had been physically harassed
- 43 percent of girls had experienced physical harassment
Also, they noted that a kid in middle school experiences one verbal harassment per day but it declines by high school. Boys experience physical harassment twice every three days, while it is once every four days for girls.
The report notes that many of these experiences decline by high school. An interesting find, which could indicate that the experience has an effect later in life, shows that verbal harassment during middle school increases the likelihood of alcohol use during high school by three times. Among boys, it can also fuel aggression and antisocial behaviors in boys who were verbally and physically harassed.
Researchers who participated in the study about cyberbullying noted that it is important to create strategies to prevent cyberbullying. They also noted that interventions to prevent the resulting behavioral problems can help break the pattern.
Parents also need to be aware of the frequency of bullying. Keep the lines of communication open with children, especially if noticeable changes in behavior are seen.
Kids may not tell anyone they are being bullied because of embarrassment about what is being said about them, or because of fear of retaliation from the bullies. Parents also may not understand how great the effects of bullying can be. It’s not simply a “rite of passage” or something one must endure as they grow up. No one deserves to be treated poorly or harassed.
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