The problem of children being bullied at school and online is getting worse not better.  There are a number of school programs designed to decrease bullying but unfortunately they do not seem to be making the impact we hoped they would be making with children.  Nationally 1 out of 5 students between the ages of 12 and 18 are bullied every year.  Of those students who are bullied, 15% are also being bullied via text messaging, email and social media.  Statistics show that approximately 46% of students who are being bullied tell their parents or teachers.  Unfortunately, many children are reluctant to tell anyone because they are embarrassed about being bullied and they don’t want to be labeled a “tattletale”  because they told someone.  Additionally, many students report even if they tell their schools nothing is done and the bullying tends to increase (CDC).  I have heard this feeling of embarrassment and lack of support from many children. There are two incidents which occurred which makes me feel these statistics are correct and bullying is out of control in our schools.

One technique we teach children is not to be passive and get involved.  In other words, if they see another student being bullied to tell a teacher, provide emotional support to the child who is being bullied or to stand up to the other children and request that they stop.  Well a six year old boy did this for a friend.  He saw a friend being bullied and he told the other children to stop.  The children turned on him and now he probably will need surgery for a broken arm.  I have included the video so you can see what happened to this brave boy.  Please watch this video

Another example is a nine year old boy who came out to family and friends over the summer that he was gay.  The teasing and bullying he received from the other boys was so intense he recently committed suicide.  Imagine the bullying that a 9 year old was having to endure was so intense that he decided he would be better off dead.  He had a supportive family, but that was not enough to eliminate the trauma he experienced from the boys who were bullying him.

As adults we need to step in and do something to stop this bullying epidemic.  We are telling children to speak up and we are trying anti-bullying programs and they are helping somewhat but not enough.  We have to look at what our children are seeing in our Country.  We have a former President who uses social media and rallies to bully people and he calls people names in his speeches such as saying Representative Maxine Walters has a very low IQ.  He also made fun of a disabled reporter and speaks very rudely to women reporters.  The response is well that is how he acts.  If he can use that excuse why can’t children.  The children and teenagers I see for psychotherapy are using the former President’s behavior as an excuse.  They do say if Trump and other politicians are allowed to use racial slurs, why do they have to watch what they say?

 Additionally the teasing adults are enduring is impacting adults too.  We have seen many Congressmen retire from Congress because they are tired of being teased or afraid to say what they really believe because it might result in them being the object of teasing. Finally, others are retiring because they are fired of risking their lives and the lives of their families when people act on this teasing. Nancy Pelosi is an excellent example.  She has been teased for years and has tolerated it.  However, when someone entered her home and physically attacked her husband, she decided to retire. She decided if the teasing has become so bad that she is putting her family at risk then the position was no longer worth it and it was time to retire due to the teasing.  If its impacting adults this way, imagine how children and teenagers are being impacted.

Therefore, we need to look at the price children are paying.  Bullying and cyber bullying are at epidemic levels.  It is also not uncommon for children to be physically hurt or choose suicide when they are being bullied.  We have become so accustomed to these suicides and kids being hurt physically that the two stories I provided a link to barely made the news and were accepted as the new norm.  This is very sad if we will allow this to be the new norm for children.

Prejudice acts impacting black Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans and the LGBTQ+ communities have been increasing significantly (CDC).  They have increased so much that many Asian, Black, Jewish or LGBTQ+ individuals are afraid to go out of their homes at night.  They are afraid of being physically attacked or killed.  The rate of violence against these people has increased so significantly that they should be afraid because we do not seem to be stopping the incidents (CDC).  This is a form of bullying.  Our children and teenagers see this change and many are afraid of being bullied and many are starting to believe it’s no problem if they bully someone.  If the adults committing these hate crimes are not being punished for their behavior, why should they be punished for doing the same thing?  This is creating serious problems for our children and teenagers.

For example, we know that children who are bullied are more likely to have mental health problems as adults and more likely to be victims of suicide as adults.  So the problem does not end as these children grow up, it follows them their entire lives.  I have seen this in my office.  I have students in college or seniors in high school who are in therapy for bullying that occurred in the first grade.

I am not sure what the answer is to this problem.  However, if we accept this as the new norm it will never change.  If we allow people like the former President to call people names on social media and in public and accept it, the problem will never end.  How can you tell a child not to bully someone when the former President does it daily and children are aware of his behavior.  Teenagers and children are aware of how Trump and other adults verbally tease others because they have smartphones.  Every time Trump makes fun of someone it pops up on their phones as news.  Therefore, teenagers and children are definitely aware of what is occurring in the world. They also use his behavior as an excuse all the time, when I am discussing their poor behavior.  It’s a difficult argument to tell a teenager or child that bullying is inappropriate when they see adults doing it all the time.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience specializing in treating children, teenagers, trauma survivors including first responders.  For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website or his Facebook page