EDITOR’S NOTE — Across the nation, children and teens are plagued by a host of escalating tragedies. This article is the first in a series of articles that will look at issues affecting America’s young people and offer resources to help parents and church leaders care for the next generation.
Bullying has become an epidemic in the United States, too often escalating with tragic and deadly results.
In 2019, after reportedly being bullied on his school bus, 10-year-old Seven Bridges came home and hanged himself. The boy from Louisville had allegedly been repeatedly teased, harassed and physically attacked by older classmates.
This is just one of other similar stories.
Currently, more than 282,000 school-aged students are physically assaulted each month in secondary schools, according to educationcorner.com.
Victims and witnesses
More than 70% report they have witnessed bullying in their school; more than 160,000 each day refuse to go to school for fear of being bullied. Sixty-four percent who are bullied don’t report it.
Bullying can be physical kicking, hitting or blocking, causing a child to fear for his safety. It can be verbal, including threats, taunts, teasing, name-calling or abusive language.
Social bullying can involve spreading malicious rumors, shunning a child or teen from social groups or embarrassing them in public. The Internet has taken this reality to a new level — cyberbullying.
A bully can now torment a victim continuously through text messaging, video and photo clips, emails, instant messaging, chatrooms and other electronic means. It can happen at school, home, church or on buses or community playgrounds.
Currently, no federal law directly addresses the problem of bullying, although in some cases it overlaps with discriminatory harassment.
How to help
What can pastors, church and community members, teachers, caregivers and families do to help stop bullying?
Here are some suggestions:
- When you see it taking place, respond quickly. Call 911 if necessary.
- Provide adult supervision in areas where children and youth gather.
- Educate yourself and others who are responsible for caring for children on the facts of bullying. Join with others to enforce zero tolerance of bullying violence.
- Watch for the warning signs of a child being bullied: unexplainable injuries, social isolation, sleeping difficulties or nightmares, self-destructive behavior, declining grades, a sudden loss of interest or changes in eating and other behaviors.
- Watch for signs of a bully — a child or youth who is increasingly aggressive, gets into fights, is verbally abusive or humiliates others.
- Talk with, listen to and teach children and youth that bullying behavior is serious, wrong and will not be tolerated.
- Work together with agencies in the community to address the issue publicly through seminars, workshops and community functions.
- Seek out and help provide professional help for both the bully and the victim.
To learn more about bullying: stopbullying.gov/resources/laws/federal.
For information about how to talk with children and youth: stopbullying.gov/resources/how-to-talk-about-bullying.
To become aware of current laws, policies and regulations: stopbullying.gov/resources/laws. (Note: All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories address bullying differently.)
To learn how to support the aggressors and victims: stopbullying.gov/prevention/support-kids-involved#address.
For more information about how to talk to children: unicef.org/end-violence/how-talk-your-children-about-bullying.
For deeper insight into bullying, read “A Comprehensive Technical Package for the Prevention of Youth Violence and Associated Risk Behaviors” at cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/yv-technicalpackage.pdf.