All kinds of bullying are dangerous

With children across the country heading back to school in a few days, now is a good time to talk about bullying and the extremely harmful effects it can have on its victims.

By now, we have all heard news reports about children being bullied by peers and suffering dire psychological and physical consequences as a result. We know not to turn a blind eye to bullying among our children and teens.

Until now, physical and verbal bullying have received the most attention from media, parents and teachers. Research published this year highlights the negative impact of another form of bullying, relational bullying.

Relational bullying is socially manipulative behaviour intended to hurt another person without physical violence. Spreading rumours, dropping friendships or excluding a person from a group are all forms of relational bullying and are probably familiar to most of us. What we may not realize is this kind of bullying can also cause considerable and lasting psychological pain.

Studies suggest relational bullying can lead to social anxiety, loneliness, depression and substance use.

New research conducted out of Montclair State University in New Jersey discovered it also diminishes social enjoyment at school, makes children feel less safe and encourages some to bring a weapon to school.

After surveying more than 1,000 students from grades seven to 12, more than 60 percent of girls and just over 50 percent of boys surveyed had experienced relational bullying.

Social enjoyment and perception of safety were significantly linked to this kind of bullying. Among boys, relational bullying was also significantly linked with carrying a weapon to school.

These negative feelings and dangerous actions resulting from relational bullying can have serious consequences for the future of those affected.

I don't need to discuss the serious impact of weapons in schools, but even emotional problems resulting from bullying can persist into adulthood and seriously impair a person's ability to cope with normal life stresses.

Obviously, we cannot navigate or control our children's relationships with their friends. However, as parents and trusted adults it behooves us to pay attention to the kinds of interactions they seem to be having.

Talk with your child or teenager regularly about his or her interactions with peers at school. Give advice when necessary and seek help if you think any kind of bullying is taking place.

On the other hand if you think your child is engaging in relational bullying, talk with him or her about it. Relational bullying is just as serious as other kinds of bullying behaviour and it shouldn't be ignored.


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