The Impact of Bullying on Children’s Mental Health: Recognizing Signs and Providing Support

What Is Bullying?

First off, despite their occasional similarity, it’s critical to distinguish between bullying and fighting. Fighting happens between two individuals of similar strength, stature, or intelligence.

Bullying occurs when one person targets another with greater aggression and authority. A bully utilises their power—be it physical prowess, increased popularity, or knowledge of humiliating details—to harm or subjugate the target of their bullying.

The victim of bullying might find it difficult to stand up for oneself and grow more helpless in the face of the abuser.

Because bullying frequently takes place behind closed doors, it can be challenging for parents or others in positions of authority (teachers, coaches, bosses) to recognize whether someone is being bullied or bullying someone else. Peers can therefore benefit from knowing when and how to intervene on behalf of someone they witness being bullied.According to data, bullying may occur online, at any time, and take many different forms. Among the most prevalent types of bullying are:

Physical Bullying:

  • Hitting or punching them
  • Kicking a person
  • Pushing someone aside
  • Purposefully stumbling someone and making them fall (particularly if they are holding many objects)
  • Hurling an object at someone or spitting

Verbal Bullying:

  • Joking around
  • Physical harm threats
  • Name-calling, which can involve using derogatory language that is racist, homophobic, or otherwise
  • Harassment via Yelling

Verbal bullying may have a serious negative effect on someone’s mental health even if it doesn’t result in cuts, scratches, or other physical injuries.

  • Bullying may also be motivated by a desire to damage the victim’s relationships:
  • Creating gossip about someone
  • Deliberately keeping someone out of a situation
  • Administering the silent treatment
  • Talking behind others’ backs or gossip

All forms of bullying can harm an individuals mental health, but relationship bullying may be particularly detrimental to children due to the hindrance of their social development.

Why do kids bully other kids?

Bullies used to be thought of as “bad kids” who just liked to hurt people. However, it doesn’t give the whole picture. Bullying by a child usually indicates that there is a problem and that the child needs help.

A child is more inclined to harass other people if:

  • At home, their parents or other caregivers have set an example of bullying conduct.
  • They lack a constructive way to satisfy their need for dominance, attention, or control.
  • They believe that to blend in with their social group, they must intimidate others.
  • Bullying is seen by them as a means of improving their social standing.
  • At home, they don’t receive adequate emotional support.
  • They lack the capacity for appropriate emotion processing and interpersonal empathy.
  • They have poor self-esteem or feel insecure.

It’s critical to distinguish between disagreement and bullying as you get a deeper understanding of bullying and its causes. As we learn social skills to get along with others, the majority of us will encounter what is known as typical peer conflict during our childhood.

Normal peer conflict is different than bullying because:

  • It doesn’t happen frequently.
  • No disparity in power exists.
  • There isn’t any risk of injury or danger.
  • The disagreement has an emotional impact on both peers.
  • Remorse can be shown by both parties, and they are committed to finding a solution.

Unfortunately, Bullying Is Common

According to studies conducted in Canada, approximately 6% of students between the ages of 12 and 19 report bullying others once a week, 8% report being the victims of bullying once a week, and 1% report being both the victim and the bully once a week (Volk, Craig, Boyce and King, 2003; Rivers and Smith, 1994; Haynie et. al., 2001). 

According to polls on bullying, males report experiencing bullying at a higher rate than girls, and nearly all of them identify their male peers as the aggressors (Totten, Quigley, and Morgan, 2004). 16% of adolescents in grades 7 to 9 who participated in a recent self-report study on delinquency among Toronto youth reported having experienced bullying more than 12 times in the year before the survey (Statistics Canada,2007)

  • Physical Bullying: Studies carried out in the US, Canada, and Europe have revealed that between 10 and 15 percent of kids between the ages of 11 and 15 reported engaging in physical bullying on a weekly basis (Craig and Yossi, 2004; Sourander, Helstela, Helenius and Piha, 2000; Duncan, 1999). Bullying that is physical peaks in grades 6–8 and then progressively decreases after that. More precisely, this study indicates that although both genders reported victimisation at the same frequency, males were twice as likely as girls to report regular bullying (Canadian Public Health Association Safe School Study, 2003a). A further 25–30% of students reported engaging in physical bullying on a monthly basis. In contrast to the results related to bullying behaviors on a weekly basis, more males than girls reported being victims of bullying on a monthly basis (CPHS, 2003).
  • Verbal bullying: Ten to fifteen percent of students said they engaged in verbal bullying on a weekly basis. About twice as many students reported verbally bullying others as they had verbally harassed someone. According to Solberg and Olweus (2003), there are no appreciable differences in this kind of bullying between boys and girls.
  • Social bullying: There is little chance that students who bully others in this way will be detected. Instead, because the effects aren’t often apparent or audible, their malicious intentions go unnoticed. According to Canadian research, 41% of kids in grades 4 through 7 said they bullied others or were the victims of bullying on a monthly basis. Of these pupils, 2% said that they often bullied other students in a social setting and 7% claimed they were the victims of bullying on a weekly basis. According to Totten, Quigley, and Morgan (2004), girls are more prone than males to engage in social bullying as well as to be the targets of it.

Cyberbullying: The Darker Side of Technology

Any bullying that occurs online is referred to as cyberbullying. Students are proficient in using computers, iPads, and cell phones as early as primary school.

A child’s intellectual development can be aided by the internet, but it also increases their susceptibility to cyberbullying.Cyberbullying is a serious issue. It may significantly affect a young person’s emotional well-being. Teens who are bullied online have a higher risk of developing anxiety, depression, and trouble in school.

A study found that youth who experience cyberbullying had a 50% higher chance of having suicide ideation than their classmates. According to a recent study, young people and children who are the targets of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to injure themselves or act suicidally.

More than half of the children polled in a Joint Research Center research reported having dealt with cyberbullying in some capacity. Teachers’ primary concern regarding safety in the classroom is cyberbullying, according to a Google poll.

Cyberbullying may take the form of pestering someone on social media, uploading humiliating pictures, and making fun of them online. Bullying also takes the form of creating fictitious social media profiles with the intention of spying on or making fun of the victim.

Regretfully, it might be almost hard for a child to get away from their bully because they can communicate with one another whenever they want while they are online.

There are several prevalent forms of cyberbullying.

  • Comments and Rumors

One of the most popular types of cyberbullying is the dissemination of unkind remarks and rumours on social media platforms. Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter are examples of popular social media networks.

According to Pew Research Center data from 2018, 32% of teenagers have dealt with the propagation of untrue tales online.

  • Demeaning Images

The dissemination of someone’s humiliating photos is another kind of cyberbullying. One example of this is “revenge porn,” which is the term for sharing someone else’s nude photos on social media without that person’s consent. 

Keep in mind spreading demeaning or intimate images of a minor is a criminal offence and can be charged under Canadian Criminal Code.

  • Posing as someone else

A bully could attempt to obtain a victim’s social media account password. Then, pretending to be that person, they can post offensive things on their account. They could also use someone else’s images and content to make a phony account, harass other people, or even pose as the real person.

  • Cyberthreats

Cyberbullies can utilise the internet to spread cyber threats against their targets. For instance, someone may upload a video that is intended to harm someone.

The Mental Health Impact of Bullying

Students who experience bullying at school from their peers are more susceptible to depression. Depression is most commonly seen as difficulty sleeping, changes in eating, emotional issues, and even suicidal thoughts. Depression in children might cause them to lose interest in things that used to make them happy.

Students who are bullied may become more anxious. Students may experience anxiety as a result of their constant worry about bullying. People with anxiety find it more difficult to build relationships with classmates, instructors, and friends.

Children who are bullied may find it more difficult to do well in school. They may find it challenging to stay up to date with their academic work as a result. Students who experience bullying daily might not want to attend classes or engage in academic activities, like sports or field trips etc.

Children who experience bullying might think they’re not as good as other kids. They may believe others are superior to them. They may think that they don’t deserve the same achievement and pleasure that other kids have.

This can have a range of effects and be disastrous for social and intellectual growth:

  • Diminished Self-confidence

A lack of confidence is among the first things that kids and teenagers who are bullied experience. For instance, children frequently believe that the person who is bullying them is better than them in a certain sport. They could think they aren’t even worthy of an audition for a certain activity. Other aspects of life may be impacted by this lack of confidence.

  • A Rise in Self-Criticism

Children who experience bullying tend to be hard on themselves. They could have heard the bully’s disparaging remarks so frequently that they began to take them at face value. They could begin to feel self-conscious about things like their height, skin tone, or hair color that they are unable to alter.

A bully may also cause somebody to feel ashamed or embarrassed about certain actions or occurrences.

  • Enhanced Seclusion of Oneself:

Children who experience bullying frequently want to distance themselves from their classmates, families, and friends because they feel so horrible about themselves. When they’re not at school, kids could spend a lot of time alone in their rooms. They could have no desire to attend school at all.

It is important to remember that bullying affects both the victim and the offender.

Children who bully others are more prone to engage in verbal and physical altercations, as well as to be less willing to accept responsibility for their conduct. Additionally, studies indicate that kids who harass others run the chance of acting in an antisocial manner. These include severe behavioral issues, substance abuse disorders, and serious academic difficulties.

Seven options to consider if your child is being bullied:

1. Encourage honest and helpful dialogue

Remind your child that they can always turn to you in case someone says or does something hurtful to them. Sometimes kids endure bullying in silence because they fear the consequences of being disregarded if they report it. Thus, convey to your child that speaking out is OK.

2. Work along with administrators of the school

In order to guarantee that your kid has access to a secure learning environment, you should work in tandem with your child’s instructors and school authorities. Get in touch with the school and voice your concerns if you think your kid is being bullied. Request that they outline the precise actions they are doing to deal with the conduct. Most schools in Ontario and other provinces of Canada have anti-bullying policies. If your child is experiencing bullying: keep a dated record of all your child reports to you and bring that to the attention of the school’s Principal so they can take proper actions.

3. Record the harassment/Bullying

Bullying doesn’t happen only once. It entails a pattern of deliberate activity that is repeated with the intention of causing harm. Thus, encourage your child to keep a journal of their experiences and extend your assistance. Sharing this data with the staff at the school or any other kind of adults who can contribute to your child’s safety can be beneficial.

4. Promote healthy relationships

Kids who know what positive relationships look like are better able to steer clear of the power disparities that can result in bullying. Have a conversation with your child about what it takes to be a good friend and the distinction between bullying and typical peer disputes.

5. Teach coping mechanisms and assertiveness

Teach your child that reporting is not the same as being a “snitch” or a tattletale and that sticking up for oneself is not bullying. Rehearse the words they could use to tell a bully that their actions would not be accepted. Saying anything along the lines of “I’m going to tell the teacher if you keep calling me names because I don’t like it” may be this. Reiterate that there can be instances in which speaking up is unsafe. Tell your kids to get aid from an adult right away if they notice someone else being harmed.

6. Promote anti-bullying initiatives

Programs to stop bullying can increase school safety. Thus, inquire about the programs that are already offered at your child’s school and speak out in favor of social-emotional learning at all grade levels.

7. Seek professional help

According to research, bullying may have a serious negative impact on a child’s well-being. For this reason, you might want to think about getting your child into therapy, like The Insight Clinic, if they have been abused. They may recover from the effects of bullying, learn about good friendships, and increase their sense of self-worth with the assistance of a mental health expert.

Parting Note

If your child is facing bullying, these seven crucial steps can help you support them effectively. Firstly, foster open communication with your child, reassuring them that they can confide in you about any issues they encounter. Secondly, collaborate with school administrators to address the situation and ensure a safe learning environment. Encourage your child to document instances of bullying, which can be invaluable for intervention. Teaching your child about healthy relationships and equipping them with coping mechanisms and assertiveness skills empowers them to navigate bullying situations confidently.

Additionally, advocate for anti-bullying initiatives within the school community. Finally, if needed, consider seeking professional help, such as therapy, to support your child’s well-being and recovery. By taking these steps, you can effectively address bullying and ensure your child’s emotional and psychological health.

Attention Parents! It’s time to stand up against bullying and safeguard our children’s well-being. At The Insight Clinic, Whitby and Barrie, we understand the profound impact bullying can have on young minds. Together, let’s make our children’s surroundings safer and more caring. Get in touch with us right now to find out how we can work together to deal with and stop the ill effects of bullying. Together, we can provide our kids the tools they need to prosper and create a more hopeful future devoid of intimidation and fear. Get in touch with The Insight Clinic right now to help your kid overcome bullying. Your deed today helps to create a brighter tomorrow for our kids.

Impact of Bullying on Mental Health

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic


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