The Harms of Bullying
Bullying is a serious problem that harms not only the victim, but everyone that it touches. It can have a serious negative effect on the bully, witnesses, and the environment as a whole.
The most obvious harm occurs to the victim. It could be anything from physical injury to embarrassment, to harm to their self esteem and even potential for success in the future. Extreme bullying (particularly coupled with sexual harassment) may cause depression or even lead to suicide. Victims often display lowered self-esteem and lowered grades, anxiety, and decreased attentiveness. Being bullied may cause a child to shy away from other children as well, or even adults--or it may cause them to become clingy, fearing separation from adults. It really depends on the individual child, the situation, and the intensity of the bullying, but it is clear that the harm is very real.
However, while attention is usually focused on this harm to the victim, also be aware of the negative effects on the bully. Studies have shown* that bullies are more likely to drop out of school, and that forty percent are convicted of at least three crimes by the age of twenty-four. Elementary school bullies are five times more likely than non-bullies to have a criminal record by the age of thirty. They are more likely to be involved in domestic violence and to work jobs below their skill level. Moreover, a bully's children are more likely to be bullies themselves, resulting in a vicious cycle of abuse.
Even if other students are not directly involved in the bullying, it can also have a negative impact on witnesses and the educational environment as a whole. Other children may be anxious or afraid that it could happen to them as well. They may be confused about whether to tell someone, or alienated by friends who are bullied. Bullying leads to an imbalanced environment, and can cultivate a culture of fear at a very young age.
Because Cyberbullying is a relatively new phenomenon, we do not know enough about how some of the harms above may or may not apply--but we do know that it is leading to more and more bullies, which means more and more victims.