Bullying is one of the most pervasive challenges that school-age children and adolescents face. Teachers, parents, and students should ensure that bullying does not happen because it has severe psychological and physical effects. One of the strategies that can be used to prevent bullying effectively is the implementation of anti-bullying laws. During the 1990s, bullying laws and policies were limited, and the vice was not as widespread as it is today.
However, in contemporary society, there is a proliferation of bullying laws and policies due to a rise in harassment in schools and online. In the United States, federal laws on bullying are nonexistent. However, at least 49 states have enacted different forms of anti-bullying laws whose scope of efficacy is unknown. These laws protect individuals from physical and digital bullying. Victims of cyberbullying are subjected to increased risk of suicide because of the cruel nature of online harassment; it affects their psychological wellbeing and enhances victimization. The enactment and enforcement of anti-bullying laws could help to decrease the rates of suicide among school-age children.
Reduction of Suicide
Children are the foundation of future generations; they should not have to undergo bullying, which pushes them to commit suicide in order to eliminate the suffering of victimization. A large section of society perceives bullying as a normal component of the adolescent experience (Jonathan 41). However, this belief is unfounded because the majority of these people have never experienced it. Research has shown that a significant percentage of teenagers contemplates suicide at one point in their lives. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, about 20% of students face a bully during the school year, and approximately 5 million youths deal with the problem annually (Losey 53).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advocates for the eradication of bullying because it has adverse consequences: depression, poor academic achievement, irregular sleep patterns, and an increased risk of dropping out of school (Losey 58). Current anti-bullying laws have been criticized for being ineffective, hence the need for more stringent legislation and policies. It is important for schools to create and implement programs aimed at preventing bullying by creating awareness, counselling the victims, and punishing the individuals involved.
High rates among victims of bullying can be associated with poor mental health and psychological distress. Individuals who have experienced prolonged periods of bullying or cyberbullying, usually develop depression, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety (Losey 64). In addition, they become delinquent and their academic performance deteriorates. According to the CDC, approximately 20% of children and adolescents in the US suffer from mental health problems that originate from bullying, social segregation, or trauma. However, only a small percentage receives professional help. The majority of people who kill themselves usually suffer from mental illness (“Bullying and Suicide”).
For example, Phoebe Prince, a 15 year old girl, committed suicide after a protracted period of bullying (Losey 41). His parents accused the school of failing to protect their child by condoning a culture of bullying in the school. Bullying and suicide are interconnected, and they are public health concerns whose prevalence among school children has been on the rise (Jonathan 41). Anti-bullying laws can help in compelling schools to create safe environments for children and provide guidelines on how to address harassment effectively. Civil rights and antidiscrimination laws are limited in scope because they only cater to the needs of protected groups of individuals.
The steady increases in social media usage can be linked to the rise in bullying and suicide among adolescents. Cyberbullying is one of the most common forms of bullying in contemporary society that is largely due to technological advancements. This can be attributed to technological advancement and the increased use of social media among children and adolescents. Online interactions create a platform for bullies to stalk and victimize users because they can do it anonymously (Jonathan 40).
More than 30% of students in high school report experiencing a form of cyberbullying; this victimization interferes with their ability to focus in class and feel safe at school (Kim 251). A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed that approximately 60% of American teenagers are harassed online on the various social media platforms that they frequent, including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube (Kim 251). Cyberbullying is cruel and pervasive because it can occur in many ways and forms.
Cyberbullying through social media can take place either in the public digital space or through private communication. The most common platforms include online gaming communities, online forums and chatrooms, instant messaging, email, message boards, and direct messaging (Kim 252). The dissemination of negative, malicious, false, or mean information about someone on the aforementioned platforms amounts to bullying (Kim 253).
The main objectives of cyberbullies are to humiliate and embarrass their victims. In many cases, this starts innocently, but gradually morphs into criminal behavior. Social media allow users of the various platforms to view the content posted by other people and respond (Jonathan 40). In that regard, strangers can read and comment on other people’s pictures and posts. This gives bullies an opportunity to launch attacks against the people they do not like by posting harsh comments or messages on their profiles.
Currently, all states have laws that require schools to address bullying, mainly because of the prevalence of online harassment. However, they have been criticized for their ineffectiveness, hence the rising numbers of bullying and suicide cases among young children and adolescents. It is important for society to pass and enforce anti-bullying laws in order to protect the psychological wellbeing of children and adolescents.
Embarrassment, stress, guilt, and fear are some of the most common effects of cyberbullying (Kim 255). Humiliation results from the feeling that the anonymity of online interactions renders bullying permanent. Moreover, harsh comments and messages can be shared with millions of people across the world. Teenagers who are bullied online, usually isolate themselves because they are afraid of talking to their peers about their experiences (“Bullying and Suicide”). Staying offline is not an option because it disconnects them from their friends.
Deterrence against Bullying
The enactment of anti-bullying laws would serve as a deterrent mechanism against harassment, both at school and on digital spaces. Many states have laws that take different approaches to the issue of bullying: disciplinary action, preventive measures, and support services. Schools are encouraged to discipline students who are implicated in cases of bullying. However, these laws are not clear on the form of disciplinary action to be taken. Many laws encourage age-appropriate punishment while others advocate for harsher punishments such as dismissal from school and enrolment into juvenile detention centers (Chen et al.).
All these recommendations are aimed at deterring bullying by discouraging students who harass others with the promise of expulsion or detention. It is also important for bullying laws to widen their scope to technology companies because cyberbullying is on the rise. The involvement of technology companies in the prevention of bullying would be effective because the proliferation of online mistreatment is augmented by their policies. It is their responsibility to create safe platforms that promote safe discourse and that discourage harassment in any form.
Anti-bullying laws could also be helpful in the creation of programs that cater to the mental needs of victims of bullying. In many states, one of the recommendations offered for the mitigation of this vice is the implementation of prevention and support programs and services. Some of the students who bully others, usually have underlying psychological issues that need to be addressed (Jonathan 27).
Therefore, it is imperative for school districts to offer counselling services in schools and implement prevention programs in order to create awareness among the students. Counselling is necessary for both victims and perpetrators of bullying. Victims benefit by dealing with the psychological effects such as fear, anxiety, and depression, while the perpetrators get an opportunity to talk about the underlying factors that compel them to bully others (Chen et al.). It would also be important for states to pass laws that require schools to train their staff members on how to identify and prevent cases of bullying.
Counterargument and Rebuttal
Opponents of anti-bullying laws argue that enacting laws to counter bullying is pointless because current state legislations are ineffective. Each state has a set of laws aimed at eradicating bullying, both at school and in online spaces. However, the cases of suicide due to cyberbullying are on the rise. They argue that instead of relying on laws, school should focus on implementing prevention programs and training initiatives to raise awareness (Losey 77). Laws are a representation of an aggressive way of solving a problem that is founded on psychological issues that should be addressed in a different manner.
These arguments are valid because prevention programs focus on creating an inclusive school environment in which all children are treated equally and in a dignified manner. However, in certain cases, bullying involve adults who harass young children, it is critical to pass laws to deal with them. Moreover, most anti-bullying laws contain guidelines that require schools to implement contextualized policies to address bullying within their precincts (Losey 88). For instance, there are policies that require disciplinary action to be taken against perpetrators of bullying and there are others that require schools to train their staff on prevention measures.
Bullying is a pervasive problem among children and adolescents that has severe physical and psychological consequences. Over the last decade, several cases of adolescents who committed suicide due to bullying were reported. The majority of the US states have anti-bullying laws that are aimed at eradicating the vice. They guide school districts on how to mitigate the problem through the implementation of prevention programs and support services.
However, they have been largely ineffective against curbing cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a cruel and pervasive form of harassment because it occurs online. The anonymity of online users makes it more difficult to prevent. It is imperative for society to pass and enforce anti-bullying laws because this could help to decrease the rates of suicide among school-age children. Suicide among teenagers is linked with depression, powerlessness, and the fear that is associated with bullying (Holt). The lack of support services and the feeling of unsafety at school worsens the situation. The children are the foundations of the future generations. Therefore, it is unfair for them to resort to suicide as a way of dealing with the pain of being bullied.
“Bullying and Suicide: Think About It.” Films On Demand, Films Media Group, 2014. Web.
Chen, Yi-Lung, et al. “Correlations between Quality of Life, School Bullying, and Suicide in Adolescents with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 17, no. 9, 2020. Web.
Jonathan Fast. Beyond Bullying : Breaking the Cycle of Shame, Bullying, and Violence. Oxford University Press, 2016. Web.
Kim, Jahun, et al. “Cyberbullying and Victimization and Youth Suicide Risk: The Buffering Effects of School Connectedness.” Journal of School Nursing, vol. 36, no. 4. 2020, pp. 251–257. Web.
Losey, Butch. Bullying, Suicide, and Homicide : Understanding, Assessing, and Preventing Threats to Self and Others for Victims of Bullying. Routledge, 2011. Web.