The effects of bullying

Bullying isn't good for anyone. It has a detrimental impact on students' health, wellbeing and learning, and effects the whole school community.

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Bullying effects everyone

Bullying behaviour impacts the whole-school community. Bullying has detrimental effects on students' health, wellbeing and learning. It can make students feel lonely, unhappy and frightened. It’s not just the students being bullied who are affected. Most students say they don’t like seeing bullying in their school – it makes them feel worried and uncomfortable. Students who bully others are also more likely to have problems and be unhappy.

Being bullied can affect everything about a child: how they see themselves, their friends, school, and their future. Students who are bullied often experience depression, low self-esteem that may last a lifetime, shyness, loneliness, physical illnesses, and threatened or attempted self-harm. Some students miss school, see their marks drop or even leave school altogether because they have been bullied. Verbal and social/relational bullying can be just as harmful as physical bullying.

Students who engage in bullying also risk poor long term outcomes, including leaving school early. Some students engage in bullying for a short time only and then stop either because they realise it’s wrong or they are supported to learn more appropriate behaviour.  A small group of students continue to bully others over many years.  Parents, whānau and schools need to support those who bully others to learn more appropriate ways to get on with others and deal with conflict and social challenges.

Although most research in this area focuses on the impacts of bullying on initiators and targets, bullying may also have a negative impact on bystanders, those who witness bullying. Even if a child isn’t being bullied, they can be affected by it.  No one can do well when they feel unsafe.

Addressing bullying effectively has benefits for the future of everyone.

Myths about bullying

Sometimes people say some of these things about bullying.  They mean well, but they’re wrong.

“You need to learn to stand up to the bullies.”

Children who tell you about bullying usually are very upset because they can no longer deal with the situation. If they could have dealt with the bullying, they would have. Asking for support is not a weakness, it’s a good decision.

“You should stand up for yourself and hit back when you are bullied.”

Hitting back usually makes the bullying worse and increases the risk of serious harm. The person doing the bullying is often bigger, so the target could get seriously hurt by hitting back. Fighting with the other child can escalate the situation, and your child may be reprimanded for their part in a fight.

“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.”

The scars left by name-calling can last forever.

“Bullying is just a stage that kids go through at school.  We all went through it and we’re fine.”

Bullying is not normal or acceptable behaviour. It can have long-lasting negative effects on everyone involved.

“The best way to deal with a student who bullies others is using punishment.”

Students who bully others usually have problems themselves and are generally unhappy in their own lives. These students always need to face the consequences for their actions, but also need support to change their behaviours and to find better ways of getting what they want to feel good about themselves.