CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Bullying is a common and serious public problem, according to a new report just released Tuesday morning.
Researchers estimate bullying affects between 18 percent and 31 percent of our youngsters, and cyberbullying impacts an estimated seven to 15 percent.
Estimates are even higher for those who are particularly vulnerable, such as those with disabilities, are obese, or are LGBT or transgender. In addition, children who do not have the same ethic background as most others in their school, appear to be at greater risk for being targets of bullying. Experts say bullying causes both short- and long-term psychological consequences for both the bullies and young people who are being bullied.
According to the report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, what seems to work best are bullying prevention programs rather than the zero-tolerance policies which expel students after one bullying incident.
Researchers also say parents should teach tolerance, rather than telling their children to fight back.
The experts say adolescents who are bullied experience a range of physical problems, including sleep disturbances, stomach problems, and headaches. Additionally, stress increases the risk of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse into adulthood.
More immediate concerns include the inability to concentrate in school, leading to academic consequences.
The researchers also found youth who bully others are more likely to be depressed, engage in high-risk activities such as theft and vandalism.
Both the children who bully and their targets, are also significantly more likely to contemplate or attempt suicide, according to the report.
Researchers are recommending bullying prevention training for those who work directly with children and adolescents, and are asking social media companies to publish anti-bullying policies on their websites to prevent, identify and respond to bullying on their platforms.