Although bullying was once thought of as a rite of passage into adulthood, it is now more appropriately considered a preventable health problem that not only has lasting impacts, but that the pediatrician can address in his or her office.1 This article will describe what bullying is, its impacts on the child, risk factors for bullying, and finally how the pediatrician can address bullying in the office.
Definition of bullying
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines bullying as “any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.”2
Cyberbullying uses social media and other electronic means in order to hurt others. It is different from traditional bullying in that it can be done at any time, often anonymously, and spread to a greater audience quickly. Not surprisingly, young persons involved as both bullies and victims are frequent users of electronic media, and there is significant overlap in the characteristics of both traditional and cyberbullying.3
Magnitude and consequences
Estimates of traditional bullying at school and cyberbullying range from 18% to 31% and 7% to 15%, respectively. The 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) estimated that approximately 20% of high school students were bullied and 15% were cyberbullied.4
Victims of bullying are at increased risk for a number of adverse consequences such as:
- Relationship problems6
- Poor health6
- Poor academic performance3
- Suicidal ideation and attempts5
Likewise, children who only bully are more likely to develop antisocial personality disorder and participate in criminality. Recent research has additionally identified another high-risk group—the “bully/victim.” These children not only bully other children but are also the victims of bullying. Observational research indicates that these children experience overall worse outcomes through adulthood.
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