Do you remember your first childhood bully? Did the experience stay with you? Do you still have hard feelings for that person or difficulties with the aspects of yourself that you were bullied about? If so, you’re not alone; bullying can have serious and long-lasting effects. And today’s kids aren’t any less at risk because much of their bullying happens digitally instead of in person.
Cyberbullying often overlaps with other types and can be as physically and mentally damaging as any other form of harassment. Take a look at what you need to know about the mental issues that can be caused by bullying.
There are many different ways that one child or group of children can bully another, and most of them can happen just as easily online as offline. Making up lies about the victim, spreading rumors, excluding the victim from peer groups, teasing, insulting, and name-calling are some of the common forms of bullying, and these can easily be done on social media, over text messages, or through IM. Physical bullying – pushing, hitting, kicking, etc., – can’t be done online, but the threat of it can certainly be delivered online.
No matter what delivery method the bully uses to reach their victim, bullying tends to have a fairly immediate effect. That’s the intention of the bully; they want to know that their victim is distressed. A bullying victim might feel fear, sadness, loneliness, isolation, or confusion. If the bullying involved threats of escalation at a later time, the victim may feel anxious. Some types of bullying can cause a person to become depressed, especially if it’s particularly traumatic or long-lasting.
Parents usually know that bullying is real. Chances are that many of them saw or experienced or even participated in bullying themselves as children. But they may not understand just how many children are bullied at any given time. This may happen because bullying tends to feel like an isolated incident. Bullied children often believe that they’re the only ones who are experiencing it, and children who see or participate in it may feel alone too.
In reality, about one out of every five students report being bullied. That’s 20% of children. There are other markers that are also important. Bullying appears more common in middle school than among younger or older children. Female and male children tend to be bullied in different ways. Girls may be excluded or have rumors spread about them, while boys are more prone to physical bullying.
But the point is that as a general rule, about one-fifth of children attending school will experience some type of bullying, and that’s a lot. Parents shouldn’t view it as a rare, isolated thing. Instead, they should understand that it’s common and that every parent needs to be aware of the signs of bullying so that they can help their children, even if their children don’t come to them with their problems. Early intervention can help to ensure that children get help both with the bullying and with any mental health problems that arise as a result of it.
Depression and anxiety are two common types of disorders that can arise from bullying. Children and teens who are bullied internalize the worry, sadness, nervousness, and fearfulness they feel, and the result is anxiety disorders or depressive disorders. Unfortunately, while bullying typically ends at some point, the resulting anxiety and depression can last and recur throughout one’s life.
Bullying can also be connected to eating disorders. In a way, this isn’t surprising. Much bullying is centered on a victim’s physical appearance. Thus, a bullying victim develops a poor self-image and low self-esteem and feels isolated, all factors that can contribute to an eating disorder. What’s more, a bullying victim may feel helpless to control the bullying or whatever the bully uses as justification. But they can control what they eat. They may turn toward disordered eating as a way to feel that they have some power in a situation.
Bullying victims may also have difficulties socializing with their peers. They may develop a tendency to behave precociously or to be too dependent on adults like teachers or parents.
In some cases, bullied children and teens develop somatic symptoms such as sore throats, headaches, stomach aches, dizziness, and more. These are not linked to a real physical disease but aren’t just the result of a child “playing sick” either; the child really does feel the symptom. Somatic symptoms are evidence that something is wrong and the child needs help.
Finally, in some cases, bullied children and teens have suicidal thoughts and sometimes take their own lives. Though this may sound extreme, it’s common enough that parents need to take the possibility seriously.
Because much bullying happens in the cyber realm today, parental monitoring software like WebWatcher can alert parents to a problem that they wouldn’t have learned about any other way. Parents can also use WebWatcher to help their children control and manage a cyberbullying problem to keep them safe. To find out how it works, get our free trial.