Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
Children who are bullied in school may be more than twice as likely to commit or attempt suicide than kids who do not experience bullying, according to a new study conducted in the Netherlands. Cyber-bullying, in which bullying words and threats are communicated via social media and other electronic means, was linked with an even higher suicide rate than bullying that happens in person. More from Reuters:
“We found that suicidal thoughts and attempted suicides are significantly related to bullying, a highly prevalent behavior among adolescents,” Mitch van Geel told Reuters Health in an email.
Van Geel is the study’s lead author from the Institute of Education and Child Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
He said it’s estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of children and teens are involved in bullying as the perpetrator, victim or both.
“Thus efforts should continue to reduce bullying among children and adolescents, and to help those adolescents and children involved in bullying,” he wrote.
While previous studies have found links between bullying and suicidal thoughts and attempted suicides, less is known about whether the association differs between boys and girls. Also, fewer studies have examined the role of cyberbullying.
For the new analysis, published in JAMA Pediatrics, the researchers searched databases for previous studies published on bullying.
They found 34 studies that examined bullying and suicidal thoughts among 284,375 participants between nine and 21 years old. They also found nine studies that examined the relationship between bullying and suicide attempts among 70,102 participants of the same age.
Overall, participants who were bullied were more than twice as likely to think about killing themselves. They were also about two and a half times more likely to attempt killing themselves.
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Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
Both physical and emotional effects of being bullied–including issues with walking or lifting heavy objects, plus anger, sadness, and fear–may accumulate over a period of years, leading to lower quality of life for people who suffer from bullies’ negative behavior. These are the findings of a new study by researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital. Reuters reports:
In the past, when researchers have surveyed students at one point in time, children and teens who were being bullied tended to score lower on measures of physical and mental health.
But few studies have examined whether the possible effects of bullying accumulate over the years, the researchers write in the journal Pediatrics.
They analyzed data from the Healthy Passages study, which surveyed students in Alabama, California and Texas about how much bullying they experienced and evaluated their physical and mental health.
Overall, 4,297 students completed the surveys in fifth, seventh and 10th grades.
The researchers found that about a third of the students had been regularly bullied at some point during the course of the study.
Generally, those who had been bullied in the past scored better on measures of physical and mental health, compared to those who were currently being bullied. Teens who were bullied throughout their school career scored the worst.
For example, about seven percent of 10th grade students who had never been bullied scored low on mental health measures. That compared to 12 percent who had been bullied in the past, 31 percent who were currently being bullied and almost 45 percent of those who underwent persistent bullying.
About eight percent of 10th grade students who were never bullied had poor physical health, compared to 12 percent of those who were bullied in the past, 26 percent who were currently being bullied and 22 percent who were continuously bullied.
Poor mental health included traits such as being sad, afraid and angry, according to Bogart. Poor physical health included limitations like not being able to walk far and not being able to pick up heavy objects.
“I think one key thing to take from this is that any adult that has any contact with children . . . (should) know what the signs of bullying might be,” Bogart said. “This study tells us some of them, but not all of them.”
“There are physical signs, but they’re not always physical,” she said.
For example, one non-physical sign that a young person is being bullied is that the child doesn’t want to go to school.
Bogart also said it’s important for parents to know if their child falls into one of the groups at high risk for bullying. Those groups include children with physical disabilities, those who are overweight and obese and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning.
“I think this says – especially for parents – to be really attuned to what’s going on in their kids’ lives by paying attention, knowing what’s going on during the school day and being aware so they’ll notice changes like these,” she said.
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Friday, February 7th, 2014
“Friday Night Tykes,” a new reality television show set at a youth football league in Texas, is igniting a debate about the fine line between motivation and bullying when it comes to coaches. An essay on Time.com outlines the issue and cites recent research that studies the ways coaches’ attitudes and behaviors can influence kids:
[On "Friday Night Tykes,"] one weeping child is told by his coach: “I don’t care how much pain you’re in! You don’t quit.” Another coach chides a player, “Don’t give me that soft crap,” while smacking him on the head. Two coaches featured on the show, where all of the athletes are 8- or 9-years-old, were suspended last week.
Such conduct by an adult can have serious ramifications for a child. “It can impair social and emotional development and cause substantial harm to mental health,” Nancy Swigonski, a professor at Indiana University’s School of Medicine, wrote last month in a piece in the journal Pediatrics. “When the bullying occurs in an athletic setting, those harmful effects are augmented by the stress kids often feel as a result of athletic competition.”
Swigonski’s article opens with the scene of a parent walking into basketball practice at her daughter’s high school, only to find “the head coach screaming at the team that they lacked intelligence and were lazy because they had not executed a play properly.”
This kind of behavior is hardly uncommon. Swigonski cited one study of more than 800 American children in which 45% said their coaches called them names, insulted them or verbally abused them during play. In another study from the United Kingdom, 6,000 young adults were asked about their experiences in youth sports, and 75% said they suffered “emotional harm” at least once, and one-third of that group said their coach was to blame.
But what often gets lost in these stories is the flip side of the equation: A “true coach”—to use the term favored by Morgan Wootten, the first high school coach to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame—can also make a lifelong difference for a young person, only in a deeply positive way.
This isn’t to say that coaches should be soft or easy. But there’s a clear line between expecting a lot from kids and being abusive. “It’s good to be tough,” Swigonski said. “It’s just not OK to be a bully.”
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Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
An anti-bullying curriculum that was tested at three elementary and middle schools in Illinois has shown promising results, including reported improvements in key areas including respect, positive communication and social behaviors, awareness and understanding of bullying, school climate, and self-esteem. More from ScienceDaily.com:
“It’s just as important to teach empathy to students as it is to teach them science,” says Jennifer E. Beebe, assistant professor of counseling and human services at Canisius College. “We can increase consciousness of positive behaviors by incorporating those ideals into the educational system. Many students may not learn them otherwise.”
Beebe completed a study which involved disrespect, bullying behaviors and physical aggression with 300 elementary and middle school students in three schools in Illinois. The behaviors were negatively impacting students’ academic achievement and school attendance. In many cases, these behaviors crossed over into the cyber world. Beebe’s research was sponsored by a grant from The Canisius College School of Education and Human Services.
Students learned several tenets from martial arts during a 12-week long mentoring program which was integrated into students’ regular classroom lessons for approximately one hour. “Students were taught such concepts as loyalty, obedience and respect.” Beebe adds.
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Monday, January 6th, 2014
A growing number of teens who are bullied over their appearance are turning to a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide free plastic surgery to those with facial deformities. The trend is sparking debate over whether plastic surgery is the right way to cope with bullying, or if it is not a strategy that will ultimately help victims regain their self-esteem or keep bullies at bay. More from Today.com:
A nonprofit in New York has an admirable mission: to provide free plastic surgery for low-income children who have facial deformities. Some of the kids who apply to the Little Baby Face Foundation do so because they are being teased over their looks. But is plastic surgery a smart way to help bullying victims?
For 15-year-old Renata and her mother, the answer was yes. Renata had been taunted so cruelly over her appearance that she stopped attending school altogether; she’s been home-schooled for the last three years.
“They were just calling me ‘that girl with the big nose,’” Renata told NBC News. “It just really hurts. And you can’t get over it.”
Last year, Renata and her mom Michelle, who asked that their last name not be used, read about another girl around Renata’s age, named Nadia Ilse. Bullied over her looks, Nadia transformed her appearance through free plastic surgery provided by the Little Baby Face Foundation. After that story hit the media, the Little Baby Face Foundation received hundreds more calls and applications than usual. Renata’s mom was one of them — she called the foundation and she and her daughter worked on the application. “I tried convincing myself that I am fine the way I am, but I just don’t believe it anymore,” Renata wrote in her application letter.
The idea of using plastic surgery to stop a child from being bullied has some experts very concerned, including New York psychologist Vivian Diller, who has written extensively about the issue.
“Are we saying that the responsibility falls on the kid who’s bullied, to alter themselves surgically?” Diller asked in an interview with NBC News. “We really have to address the idea that there should be zero tolerance of bullying, and maybe we even have to encourage the acceptance of differences.”
Renata’s mom disagrees. To her it’s similar to correcting any other sort of medical problem a child might have. “Parents correct kids’ teeth with braces to make their teeth straighter,” the teen’s mother said. “They’re still the same kid on the inside, but, unfortunately, people are judged on how they look.”
The Little Baby Face Foundation got a huge amount of media attention over the Nadia Ilse story, but doctors at the nonprofit insist they are not running an anti-bullying organization. Dr. Thomas Romo, the director of facial, plastic and reconstructive surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, runs the foundation, which was started in 2002. Romo has treated children with deformities all around the world and wanted to bring that idea home to the U.S.
Image: Teen covering face, via Shutterstock
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