The Impact of Bullying in Schools

Amanda Martin
Amanda Martin
Elementary school music teacher; M.A.Ed. In Curriculum and Instruction
Teenage girl gets bullied virtually on her phone.

What Does Bullying in Schools Look Like?

Bullying has always been an issue in schools, but with the addition of the internet and social media in recent decades, it has taken on many new forms. In its most basic definition, bullying is defined as the repetitive pestering of others through intimidation or behaviors that make life miserable or extremely unpleasant. Bullying may look different depending on the age of the students involved, but its general makeup is still the same. Let’s identify types of bullying in elementary, middle, and high school.

Bullying in Elementary School

Because of the sensitive nature of bullying, it is easy for students in elementary school to label any negative behavior toward themselves or others as bullying; however, bullying is a repetitive behavior where a student is being badgered or harassed more than just a single occurrence. Bullying in elementary school generally involves verbal bullying like name calling and teasing; although, physical bullying (via hitting, pushing, kicking, etc.) may also be present in an elementary school setting.

Bullying in Middle School

Middle school students are notorious for name calling and teasing others. This may be due to puberty and surging hormones, immaturity, and many other factors. Bullying in middle school is most often seen as verbal harassment and social alienation; but as with elementary students, physical violence toward others cannot be ruled out. Because more and more students are given access to technology at a younger age, students in middle school can be subjected to bullying via social media or other virtual platforms.

Bullying in High School

Bullying in high school is evolving more through social media than in the middle or elementary school levels. Although most of these situations take place outside of school, the boiling point often comes to fruition at school. Unfortunately, teachers and school administration have a hard time detecting these types of bullying situations as most students do not speak up out of fear of peer retaliation. Because of this, it is extremely important that teachers be knowledgeable enough to recognize the signs of bullying in students in order to begin identifying virtual bullying.

How can it Impact Students?

Academic Impacts

Unfortunately, bullying can negatively impact a student’s performance academically. This can be seen throughout all grade levels, but it may affect older students who are experiencing bullying more often than those in elementary grades. Students suffer from a lack of motivation, lack of focus, or even a fear of being successful in the classroom after repetitive harassment from another student. Additionally, students who are bullied may have a generalized fear of going to school.

Social Impacts

It goes without saying that bullying most certainly impacts students in the social arena. Bullied students are typically not considered popular; thus, they may deal with social isolation or may be excluded more often than not. Students who are bullied may feel socially awkward, struggle to carry on conversations due to lack of self-esteem, and shy away from social situations due to anxiety.

Mental and Emotional Impacts

The social impacts of bullying are directly related to the mental and emotional impacts of bullying as well. Students who feel isolated, excluded, and ostracized from peers are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. In addition to these factors, students who feel threatened physically by a peer or deal with any other form of bullying may have an extreme lack of self-confidence or cope with self-esteem issues.

Physical Impacts

Aside from experiencing depression or anxiety, students who are bullied may complain of various health issues. Stomach aches and headaches are often reported among students dealing with bullying situations, but it is also not uncommon for students to have trouble sleeping or a lower ability to fight infections due to increased levels of stress in the body and their impact on the immune system.

Many students may even pretend to be sick in order to avoid school due to those unwanted and unpleasant bullying situations. One of the most disturbing and detrimental impacts of bullying is the possibility of student suicide. This is yet another reason why students and school staff should be knowledgeable in identifying the signs of bullying.

Strategies for Preventing Bullying in Schools

There are many ways that teachers and schools can educate students on bullying behaviors and how to thwart them from happening. Obviously, there are no guaranteed ways to prevent it, but the ideas and strategies laid out below will provide a good place to start in how to stop bullying in schools.

Educate Students about Bullying

Schools can help decrease the amount of bullying activity by educating students about it. This route is especially helpful for students in elementary school. The sooner students understand bullying and how to identify it, the sooner bullying behaviors can be dramatically reduced in schools.

In addition to recognizing bullying behaviors, students should learn basic social-emotional skills that allow them to interact with others appropriately from an early age. Students should learn how to correctly engage with others and stand up for or express themselves in the proper way. All of these skills are crucial to a child’s development and progression into adulthood.

Staff and Faculty Training

Schools and school districts should educate teachers and staff about bullying and how to identify the signs among students. Many times, students do not report bullying for a multitude of reasons including fear; therefore, teachers may be the first line of defense in combating bullying. Once school staff understand what bullying looks like and how to recognize it, they may take steps to interfere.

Speak Up

Being silent when it comes to bullying is never the answer. Specifically, students who witness bullying should be taught to speak up and report it to a teacher or the school administration. Many times, students who resort to suicide or other self-harming behaviors do so because they feel like they do not have any other way out of the negative situation. By speaking up, students can bring awareness to the bullying that is taking place and help put an end to it.

Create Student Support Systems

Student clubs and organizations are excellent ways to build community and camaraderie among students. Elementary students could form a “Kindness Club” to perform random acts of kindness for members of the community, school staff, or other students. Middle and high school students could create clubs to discuss mutual interests such as photography, robotics, drama, and so much more!

Overall, students have strength in numbers, and these types of opportunities provide students with a chance to create beneficial support systems and valuable bonds with others. Regardless of the type of club or organization, students who form friendships with others are less likely to experience bullying on a large scale and are able to cope with it more effectively and in a more positive manner.

Classroom Discussions

This activity can be beneficial to middle and high school students. Teachers may host weekly discussions to help identify and combat bullying. The goal of these discussions is not to call out bullies or those individuals who are experiencing bullying, but they are to analyze and evaluate why bullying is taking place in the first place. Another purpose of the weekly discussions is to bring awareness to bullying by identifying the reasons bullies behave the way they do toward others.

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