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5 Ways Bullying Affects Students

Taylor Swift wrote her hit song “Mean” about being picked on by a harsh critic, and it quickly became an anthem for those who’ve been bullied—an all too common occurrence.

Contrary to what some may think, bullying is not simply harmless teasing. The U.S. Department of Justice defines bullying as, “repeated physical, verbal, or psychological attacks or intimidation directed against a victim who cannot properly defend him- or herself because of size or strength, or because the victim is outnumbered or less psychologically resilient.”

Its consequences are real and, in some cases, can last long after the bullying has stopped. Research shows that bullying can lead to depression that may continue for years after the victimization.

Bullying by the Numbers

This sobering infographic from the Stop Bullying Now Foundation highlights the numbers associated with bullying. Some of the most shocking statistics involve the lack of intervention on a bullied child’s behalf. According to the infographic, adult intervention is a mere 11 percent, while no intervention stands at an appalling 85 percent. More understandably, peer intervention is a low 4 percent.

The Effects of Bullying

If you know bullying is taking place, it’s imperative that you take action to stop it. How can you recognize when someone’s being bullied if you don’t witness it or the person doesn’t tell you? Knowing the signs to look for is key. The infographic lists five common effects of bullying:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Fear
  3. Withdrawal
  4. Low self-esteem
  5. Poor concentration

Any or all of these can lead to a student who avoids school, earns lower grades, and becomes socially isolated. Tragically, some kids who’ve been bullied consider suicide or decide to retaliate: Being bullied was a factor in two thirds of the 37 school shootings reviewed by the U.S. Secret Service.

What can you do?

There are multiple ways to intervene. Organizations like The National Center for Bullying Prevention and Speak Out Against Bullying are working to make bullying an ongoing, national conversation. For practical tips on how to discuss the topic with your child and what steps you can take to prevent or stop bullying, check out these helpful resources:

Sometimes the best solution is to remove the student from the environment in which the bullying occurs. Online schooling can be a wonderful refuge for those who’ve experienced bullying. In addition to restoring peace of mind and safety, freedom from bullying can help students excel academically.

As the chorus to “Mean” says, “Someday, I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me,” but until that time, it’s up to all of us to stand up for the weak and the vulnerable. Their future health and success could depend on it.

For more resources in the fight against bullying, check out these Learning Liftoff posts. You can show your support for bullying prevention by joining K12’s anti-bullying campaign and adding your name to the #ZeroBullying rally.

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Anne Vogel

Anne Vogel

Anne Vogel is a senior writer for K12. With a degree in communications from Virginia Tech, and a master’s degree in linguistics and TESOL Certification from George Mason University, her passion for language and writing is clear. Her varied career includes six years teaching English as a Second Language at California State University–Long Beach, after which Anne returned to her native Virginia and taught at her alma mater, Fairfax High School. For the past ten years, she’s worked as a writer and editor for nonprofit and corporate organizations in the education and government contracting sectors. With friends across the globe—thanks to her teaching days—she loves to travel. But the destination she enjoys most is Marietta, Georgia, where her favorite nephew lives.

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