Bullying: Has Policy and Hype Affected this Health Dilemma?

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Approximately 3.2 million Americans are bullied each year, many with life and health ramifications.

A 15-year-old boy trips and falls, someone takes a video on their phone and sends it to their contact list, posting it to YouTube and Facebook.

A 19-year-old woman is sexually assaulted, tells a friend and days later has expletives spray-painted on her car.

A 12-year-old boy is invited to a party at the town park — when he gets there, no one is there.

A coach screams at a team, picking on weak personality traits.

An 8-year-girl is tripped repeatedly on the bus.

A 14-year-old girl is made fun of every day for her choice of clothing or hair

An 11-year-old boy is made fun of for being overweight.

A 6-year-old boy has a dirt stain on his butt and a rumor is started that he
has “poop” on his pants.

A 16-year-old girl gets a hickey, a friend takes a photo which is then posted
to Facebook and Instagram, and a rumor is spread that she did things she

These are only a few examples of daily bullying I have heard about, or seen, in the Milford area recently. Middle School East had a "Black Out Bullying" day in January of this year. Of course bullying happens in the ‘adult’ world as well, but this column will focus on kids and teens.

This week, on the new TV show “Neighbors,” the “humans” were trying to teach the “aliens” different techniques to prevent bullying. It was a head shaking acknowledgment of how “humans” have grown accustomed and essentially accept bullying by teaching how to ignore or overcome it. And it's not just the bullying from my childhood anymore, cyber bullying is rising.

Bullying affects all aspects of a person’s social, physical, emotional and scholastic health. Despite the discussions in schools, and the month dedicated to prevention, surveys of fourth to sixth graders indicate that 25 percent of all children had been bullied at least "several times" within a two-month period and about 10 percent had been bullied at least once per week.

Bullying is a serious health concern, which the World Health Organization states elevates morbidity and mortality among its victims. It often leads to dislike of school (and lower grades), depression, anxiety, and contributes to 19,000 suicide attempts each year. Bullying may lead to eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and obesity. Research reveals it leads to a decrease in self-esteem and difficulty in social functioning. Along with the potential health issues grouped with eating disorders, there are often other physical symptoms such as migraines, insomnia, fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, ADD and chronic pain syndrome.

The difficulty? Kids will be kids. Coaches will yell. Teachers can’t keep up with (or hear all of) the bullying. If the child is unaware they are being bullied (or lacks self-esteem to tell a teacher or parent) how will a parent know? These videos on the Milford Public Schools website are fantastic and should be watched by all members of our community.

Signs and symptoms of a young person being bullied:

• They are sad or anxious, yet refuse to say what is wrong.
• Unexplained cuts and bruises.
• Reluctance to go to school.
• Changes in mood and behavior.
• Lower confidence and self-esteem.
• Complaints of headaches and stomach aches.
• Problems sleeping.
• They have few friends and appear to be socially isolated from peers.
• Their grades drop.
• Child appears upset after being online or looking at their phone.

Often when parents are told, they tell the child to “ignore it” with the fear that reporting it increases the potential for more bullying. Safe Schools has put together a great guideline to assist parents and guardians in the event of potential bullying. Milford schools have a “no tolerance” policy. Bottom line for parents and students: disregard your fear of reciprocation and REPORT using this form.

Amy Leone of Community Impact commented "kids need to have a better understanding of what it takes to build and maintain relationships and how to be a good friend. This will decrease bullying in the end."


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