Bullying is a problem that has only become more concerning as young people have more access than ever to communication. What used to end when the school bus dropped a child at their stop is now nearly uninterrupted opportunities for contact with classmates.
Internet Makes Bullying A Constant Problem
The advent of the Internet and, in particular the availability of texting and Internet use on smart phones, has led to constant contact with friends as well as potential enemies at school. Bullying interactions can come in person, or, typically called cyberbullying, it can occur through social media or a text message.
Bullying And Mental Health Issues
Bullying can lead to psychological distress, as well as depression and anxiety. Determining the factors that can predict occurrences of bullying is critical for preventing not only bullying but the resulting mental health issues.
Predicting And Preventing Bullying
The importance of predicting where and how bullying may occur has been highlighted in recent news stories. Previously held assumptions about bullying as a harmless rite of passage for the resident school nerd have been replaced by more troubling scenarios. The news has recently reported disturbing accounts of bullying that led to devastating events.
Schools are responding to the serious nature of bullying. Parents are notified when their child has been involved in an incident of bullying. Schools are implementing prevention and intervention techniques that seek to eliminate bullying.
A recent study led by Monica H. Swahn, Ph.D., MPH, and colleagues examined the role of alcohol in predicting bullying among middle and high school students. In particular the researchers wanted to determine whether the age of initiation had an impact on whether bullying occurred, from both the perspective of victim and perpetrator. The study was conducted with middle and high school students in Georgia.
The researchers used data from the 2006 Georgia Student Health Survey, which included 175,311 students in middle and high school. The researchers specifically focused on the responses of 122,434 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades.
Early Alcohol Use And Bullying
Using multilogistic regression analyses, the researchers were able to identify associations between early alcohol use initiation and subsequent involvement in bullying, whether as a victim or a perpetrator. They looked at all angles of involvement, from those who were both victims and perpetrators, to those who had no bullying occurrences at all.
The researchers also controlled for various factors, such as demographic variables, the use of other substances besides alcohol, the drinking behaviors of their peers and whether they carried a weapon.
The results of the analysis showed that the early initiation of alcohol use was found to be closely connected with bullying, both as a victim and as a perpetrator. The findings did not show a difference between genders in the association between early alcohol use and bullying.
It is unclear whether early initiation of alcohol use leads to bullying, but a clear association indicates that further research is necessary to understand the connection. The study does not provide evidence a clear cause-and-effect relationship, but only evidence of an association.
It is possible that there is a causal relationship between drinking and bullying, but it may be that the relationship is causal in both directions.
Signs Of Being Bullied
Educators and parents should be aware of the signs that a child is being bullied:
- A sudden change in eating habits
- Unexplained injuries or missing personal property
- Complaints of stomach ache or other reasons to avoid being at school
- An abrupt personality change
- Avoiding conversation involving topics that they typically enjoy talking about
Parents Teaching Kids Alcohol, Bullying Risks And Setting Rules
Parents should also talk with their pre-teen and teenage children about their wishes and views regarding alcohol consumption. In previous research, teens repeatedly indicate that parents are the most influential factor considered when decisions related to alcohol are presented.
In addition to talking with their children about the risks associated with alcohol consumption, parents should also set clear rules. Parents can also discuss openly with their children the consequences they can expect if they choose to consume alcohol.
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