Bullying has always been one of the ugliest parts of childhood. As kids gain more access to technology—social media platforms in particular— cyberbullying has become an additional avenue for kids to torment each other. So bullying is becoming increasingly worse, and monitoring it is becoming increasingly difficult. This phenomenon is more than just unfortunate…it’s dangerous.
A tragic connection
While of course it’s important to note that there are other factors involved, and that correlation doesn’t equal causation, there’s an undeniable link between bullying and suicide. LGBTQ young people are especially at risk: 43% of lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students have seriously considered suicide, compared to 15% of their heterosexual peers.
There’s also an undeniable link between bullying and violence as a form of revenge, with up to 75% of school shootings being linked to harassment and bullying.
The less extreme consequences of being bullied, such as increased risk for depression and anxiety, higher rates of school absences and dropout, diminished self-esteem, and poor sleep habits, may not be directly life-threatening, but they can certainly make life a lot harder than any of us want it to be for our children.
So what makes people behave like bullies? The causes of bullying, much like the effects, are complicated.
A very young child might bully a classmate out of curiosity more than meanness, just to see what will happen. This is why it’s so important to set clear boundaries early in a child’s development.
Usually, though, there’s some level of intent involved. Maybe a child feels powerless and turns to bullying as a means of feeling in control. Maybe they’re mimicking a behavior they’ve observed at home, or in a movie, or within their social circle. Maybe they’ve never learned any other way to communicate.
That’s why the conversation about bullying needs to be an ongoing one…the human experience becomes increasingly complex as children age, and those boundaries you set early on need to adapt accordingly. Eventually (and sooner than you think), kids will become aware of each other’s differences. Hair texture, skin color, clothing styles. Personality and traditions. Sexual orientation and gender identity. You can either let them be afraid of and confused by those differences, or you can teach them to understand the importance of diversity and welcome it kindly and compassionately.
Whether it was being pushed around on the playground, being ridiculed for your braces/glasses/shoes/hair/name/whatever the mean kids latched onto, or being pressured to participate in an activity you weren’t comfortable with, you probably have at least one memory of being bullied, and thinking about it probably still makes your cheeks get hot and your belly tighten.
Or maybe you have a memory of bullying someone else, someone you haven’t seen in years, and you feel long-buried regrets bubbling to the surface as you wonder what the impact of your words or actions might have been.
You might remember your mom or your grandma teaching you to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” As comforting as that old adage may be on some levels, it’s simply not true. Words can absolutely be hurtful, painful, and damaging, especially as children are still developing and learning and becoming who they’re eventually going to be.
So whatever your memories are, use them to move forward. To help each new generation be a better version of the last one. Teach your children to stand up for themselves. To value themselves. To love themselves. And then teach them to do all those same things for others, every chance they get.
We can help you protect your family with life insurance. You can help your family protect the whole world by teaching them the power of acceptance and compassion. Together, we can transform lives.