-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
MONDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- Because millions of kids in
the United States are affected by bullying, some people may shrug
it off as just a part of growing up. But experts warn that it
should be treated as a serious issue and not accepted as normal
Estimates indicate that nearly 30 percent of U.S. teens -- or
about 5.7 million -- have bullied someone, been targeted by bullies
or both, according to the National Youth Violence Prevention
Widespread use of the Internet has also taken bullying to a new
frontier in online chat rooms, email and on social networking
sites. Facing this growing problem, experts at Loyola University
Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., warned that if bullying is not
addressed head-on, this very real problem could do lasting harm to
children's health and well-being.
"Being the target of a bully involves real suffering," Dr. Earlene Strayhorn, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Loyola University, said in a university news release. "The constant stress of physical assaults, threats, coercion and intimidation can take a heavy toll on a child's psyche over time. The abuse may end at some point but the psychological, developmental, social and emotional damage can linger for years, if not a lifetime."
Because bullies thrive on intimidation and control, they often
target those who are timid, passive and have fewer friends. They
also choose victims who are younger, smaller and are less able to
defend themselves. These victims may experience a number of adverse
effects, including anxiety, fear and the inability to focus on
schoolwork. Over time, Strayhorn noted, a bullied child's sense of
self-esteem and self-worth can suffer, resulting in withdrawal,
depression and insecurity.
"There have even been a number of instances in which victims have committed or attempted suicide in a desperate effort to find reprieve from bullying," said Strayhorn. "Some victims have violently struck back at their tormentors; in some cases targeting innocent bystanders."
Bullying differs from typical childhood teasing mainly because
it is relentless, Strayhorn explained. Unlike more normal behavior
among children, bullying can also include:
Strayhorn advised parents who suspect their child is being
bullied to take the following steps:
The American Academy of Pediatrics provides more information on
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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