Modern-Day Bullying: What is the Impact on Today’s Youth?

Boy being bullied by a group of teenagers.October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and a time to encourage working together to stop bullying and cyberbullying, and put an end to hatred and racism by increasing awareness and the impact of all forms of bullying.

When we think about bullying today, thoughts of a bigger kid picking on a younger kid at the playground may be the first vision that comes to mind.

Though physical and verbal bullying still occurs today, teens can also be victims of cyberbullying, which is bullying that takes place over digital devices like mobile phones, computers, and tablets.

Cyberbullying can occur through short message service (SMS), text, and apps, or online in social media, forums or gaming where people can view, participate in or share content. Unfortunately, cyberbullying can include sharing personal or private information about someone else, causing embarrassment or humiliation.

Today’s teens can be involved in bullying in a variety of ways like as the bully, the teen being bullied or the teen who witnesses the bullying. Monarch Behavioral Health Therapist Lori Harrison has some practical suggestions to watch for the signs and what to do if you suspect your child is bullying or being bullied.

Common Warning Signs of Bullying

Ironically, warning signs that bullying may be occurring can be seen in both the victim and the agitator. “The person doing the bullying has similar signs as the person being bullied,” noted Harrison, adding that for a teenager that is the bully there is almost always an underlying issue.

Warning signs of bullying can include noticeable increases or decreases in personal device use, teens hiding their screen when you enter the room or a change in the child’s demeanor.

Bullying’s Effect on a Teen’s Mental Health

Research suggests the following:

  • Teens who are bullied – Over time, teens who are bullied are more likely than those not bullied to experience depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. They also are more likely to be lonely and want to avoid school.
  • Teens who bully others – The same study showed that teens who bully others are at higher risk for more intense anti-social behaviors such as substance use, aggressive behavior, and school problems.
  • Teens who witness bullying – Bystanders or teens who witness bullying experienced increased anxiety and depression regardless of whether they supported the bully or the person being bullied. Bystanders may experience stress related to fears of retaliation or even a form of post-traumatic stress disorder because they wanted to intervene but didn’t.

How Can Bullying Be Prevented

Harrison believes that the initial step is to educate students about bullying, how to identify it and avenues to report it. “There has to be an awareness to educate students about bullying,” she said. “Educate them on what bullying is, the different types of bullying and that kids can also be bystanders to bullying. Instead of pulling out their phone to record the bullying, give bystanders tools to report bullying.”

She recommends that a system is put in place to protect bystanders, so they feel comfortable reporting bullying.

Harrison advocated for implementing a consequence if bullying occurs but also the opportunity to discuss what has happened: “Have a sit down with the individuals who are having a conflict. Have a guidance counselor or social worker see what needs to be done to prevent escalation.”

Harrison added that it is essential to have consequences in place if the bullying continues because the impact that it can have on a person can last into adulthood.

How Parents Can Enhance Communication

In addition to looking out for warning signs, checking in regularly with your child can also be helpful. “Ensure that your teen knows that open and honest communication is accepted in your household, leaving a door of communication open where your teen feels they are comfortable enough to discuss sensitive topics such as bullying or being bullied,” advised Harrison.

“If your child doesn’t feel comfortable enough to talk to you, link them to resources, so they feel comfortable talking to someone else such as a therapist, church pastor or a close family friend,” Harrison advised.

Click on the links below to view videos on mental health topics helpful to children:

For more information about Monarch services or to schedule an appointment, please call (866) 272-7826.