If you were to compare today’s K-12 school system to that of past generations, you’d likely realize the difference is night and day. We’ve swapped chalkboards for smartboards, notebooks for tablets, and encyclopedias for the internet — and yet, one big detail remains the same.
Of course, we’re talking about school bullying.
As much as we hate to admit it, toxic behavior is still a pressing issue for elementary, middle, and high school students alike. More than just a schoolyard dilemma, childhood bullying has developed into a significant public health emergency.
Indeed, the effects of bullying can be devastating. For a young person, they can even be life-threatening. But what, exactly, do they look like? How can you identify them? And, most importantly, what can you do to support bullying prevention throughout your school district?
Read on to learn key statistics about bullying and how toxic behavior impacts your students’ short- and long-term well-being.
The facts about school bullying
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bullying is a form of youth violence and is classified as an “adverse childhood experience” (ACE).
The CDC defines childhood bullying as any unwanted aggressive behavior by another young person or group of youths that involves an “observed or perceived” power imbalance. A bully may inflict harm or distress on the targeted victim in multiple ways, including physical, psychological, social, or educational.
Common types of bullying behavior include:
- Physical bullying, such as hitting, kicking, and shoving.
- Verbal bullying, such as name-calling or teasing.
- Social bullying, which includes spreading rumors, sexual harassment, and social isolation.
The types above are often called “traditional” bullying behavior because they happen in person. Now, however, the internet has given rise to a new, digital form of online bullying — perhaps better known as cyberbullying.
In this case, a young person uses digital technology to bully others. For instance, a bully might spread false rumors about someone on social media, post disparaging comments about them, or directly harass their victim over text messages. Some even use school-provided cloud applications, like Google Docs or Microsoft PowerPoint, to talk badly about a fellow student or share mean-spirited information.
Bullying by the numbers
It’s no secret that school districts across the country have battled their bullying situation for decades. That said, you might not realize just how common it truly is.
As a matter of fact, the National Bullying Prevention Center shares some interesting information that sheds light on the prevalence of school toxicity. According to data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics, 1 in 5 students report being bullied. Twice as many — about 40% — believe they’re likely to be bullied again.
Broken down by age, reports of online bullying are highest among middle school students, followed by high school students and elementary school children. When asked about the type of cyberbullying they’ve experienced, mean and hurtful comments (25%) and online rumors (22%) were the most commonly reported.
Overall, according to Pew Research Center, nearly half of U.S. teens say they’ve been cyberbullied in one way or another. Even more (53%) say online bullying and harassment are a major problem for people their age.
But what about LGBTQ+ students? Well, per the CDC, high school students that are gay, lesbian, or bisexual are about twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to be a bullying victim.
Bullying and violent behavior
Obviously, physical bullying and violent, aggressive behavior are closely linked. However, even verbal or social bullying can spiral into targeted violence on school grounds.
We’ll discuss the effects of bullying later on, but its impact on violent plots can’t be ignored. According to research, 12 of 15 school shootings in the 1990s were perpetrated by bullied students. A more recent study of 67 disrupted school violence plans found that bullying was a contributing factor in nearly all of the plots.
The conclusion is simple: Toxic behavior, if not mitigated, can have drastic consequences.
How bullying impacts students
Whether it starts in high school, elementary school, or anytime in between, bullying can have significant repercussions. While some manifest themselves almost immediately, others may last well into adulthood. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a young adult to experience impacts related to aggressive behavior they experienced as a child.
To help you understand, let’s review the short- and long-term effects of bullying on your students.
It goes without saying that physical, verbal, social, and online harassment is a lot to deal with — especially as a young person. It’s hard enough to confront painful emotions as a child, let alone a high school student or young adult. As a result, bullying can have significant near-term effects, including:
- Poor academic performance: Bullied students often do worse in school than their peers. They’re less engaged in the classroom, which means their learning suffers. In turn, academic performance and test scores take a turn in the wrong direction.
- Greater absenteeism: About 5.4 million students skip school every year due to bullying — and that’s a conservative estimate. Because it often takes place on school grounds, bullied kids tend to avoid going at all costs. The way they see it, it’s worth missing class if it means you won’t be a victim.
- Increased self-isolation: Bullied kids often have such low self-esteem that they socially isolate themselves from others. This can also impact their development, as they may eventually have difficulty making friends or maintaining stable relationships. Worse yet, it can lead to poor mental health.
- Self-harm: Prolonged victimization can devolve into a significant mental health issue. If untreated, it’s not uncommon for a bullying victim to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as self-harm. This involves inflicting physical or emotional pain on one’s self as a way of mitigating or temporarily avoiding overwhelming or negative feelings.
Notably, bullying has such a significant impact on students that it can even dramatically affect the bully themselves. According to research, kids who bully others are more likely to get into fights, vandalize property, or drop out of school. Likewise, they’re also more likely to engage in early sexual activity.
One of the biggest reasons bullying prevention is important is that it can make a powerful difference in the long run. However, without intervention, bullying can lead to many terrible outcomes, including:
- Poor mental health: Kids who are bullied are more likely to develop depression and anxiety, feelings of sadness and loneliness, or sleep and eating disorders. These conditions also often persist into adulthood and may even lead to more significant health problems later in life.
- Substance abuse: Both bullying victims and bullies themselves are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol in adolescence and as adults.
- Legal problems: Bullying behavior often puts youths at greater risk of participating in illegal activities. In fact, 60% of boys who were bullies in middle school had at least one criminal conviction by the age of 24.
- Suicidal behavior: Because bullying impacts mental health and increases the likelihood of depression and anxiety, it’s also closely linked to suicidal behavior. Researchers have found that individuals involved in this bullying (as perpetrators, targets, or both) are significantly more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
How to spot signs of bullying
By now it should be clear to see why school bullying is a major public health risk. Much more than an individual problem, it can have serious implications for all parties involved. And, as a school district, you’re on the frontlines day in and day out.
In other words, you’re in the prime position to lend a helping hand and help stomp out toxic behavior. But, before you can do that, you’ll have to know exactly what to look out for.
The signs of physical bullying are a bit more out in the open. A child may be a bullying victim if they:
- Are suddenly withdrawn from social activities or refuse to go to school
- Feel anxious, depressed, or irritable
- Have difficulty sleeping, eating, or concentrating
- Have a notable slip in academic performance
- Fear using the school restroom or eating in the cafeteria
- Starts carrying a weapon or discusses harming themselves or others
- Have unexplained bruises, scrapes, or cuts
- Talk about suicidal thoughts or wanting to die
Also, watch out for signs of a student at risk of displaying bullying behavior. These include:
- Lack of empathy
- Difficulty regulating emotions
- Aggressive behavior
- History of being bullied
- Having few friends
Okay — but what about online bullying? Most school districts have difficulty monitoring their digital environment, especially when it comes to Google Workspace and Microsoft 365. Few schools have visibility over these cloud domains, which means it’s almost impossible to spot signs of cyberbullying, such as:
- Talk of bullying, violence, self-harm, or suicidal behavior
- Name-calling, teasing, or verbal harassment
- Embarrassing images and videos of classmates
Detecting Cyberbullying In School-Provided Technology
There are several popular tools available on the market that some districts choose to use to help detect signs of cyberbullying, thoughts of suicide, threats of violence, and other student safety red flags online.
With ManagedMethods’ suite of tools, you can keep your district’s online learning environment a safe space for students.
With our Cloud Monitor platform, you can easily gain the visibility you need to stop bullying in Google and Microsoft applications. This unique, cloud-based platform is both a cybersecurity tool and a cyberbullying monitoring solution.
With our Content Filter platform, you can restrict students’ access to inappropriate content, website, YouTube videos, etc. while also monitoring for potential student safety red flags, such as cyberbullying behavior.
Both platforms are super easy to use and take just minutes to activate. In fact, why wait any longer? Request a demo today and see exactly how Cloud Monitor and Content Filter can help you protect students in more ways than one.