Can Bullying Affect A Child’s Learning?

Bullying is becoming a more significant problem in schools and at home, but can bullying affect a child’s learning performance? This has been one of the most controversial issues in the education system and also with parenting in general so it’s worth taking a deeper look into this.

What is bullying?

Surveys report that 8 out of 10 children have encountered bullying in school.

Bullying is on the rise. It’s rampant, common, and all-pervasive, and the consequences can be disastrous. It happens in our communities, schools, and, unfortunately, even our homes. The statistics on bullying are staggering and frightening, and they demand careful attention and urgent action.

Some may refer to it as harassment, violence, cruelty, or drama. Bullying is still perceived to be negative and unwelcome behavior, regardless of how it is labeled. Bullying is a deliberate act, it’s done on purpose and is often done repeatedly to the same victim.

Bullying behavior, is more than just simple disagreement or dispute. Bullying occurs when someone uses their position of authority to manipulate or injure another person. It’s hostile and intended to injure, frighten, exclude, or offend others. The effects on the victim can be comparable to straight up physical assault.

If a child is being bullied at school, they are unlikely to want to go because they do not feel comfortable and safe.  They are less engaged in class and outside of it. They’re even more likely to skip class, or in extreme cases, drop out of school altogether to avoid having to deal with their bully. The bottom line is that they miss a lot of school as a result, and their grades suffer which then leads to affecting a child’s learning process. They get more unhappy and anxious every time they go to school because they have no idea when their next assault will occur.

Nothing is more frustrating than raising their hand in class to answer a question just to be called names, criticized, or laughed at by their classmates. Or having to form a group for art class because they’re the only one who doesn’t have a buddy.

If a child feels attacked every time they have to participate in class, their self-esteem and ability to succeed can deteriorate over time.  Bullying can severely damage a child’s motivation to learn and destroy the desire they had to succeed in school in the first place. It might also be the reason some parents opt to homeschool their children instead.

For many victims of bullying, depression and anxiety go hand in hand. They can also have a myriad of other effects on your ability to learn. If the child suffers from anxiety, the child’s body is constantly in “fight or flight” mode. This is due to their brain’s inability to distinguish between a genuine and a fictitious threat.

The Fight or Flight Response to Being Bullied

The fight or flight response is useful in emergency situations. For example, if you were walking through the woods and came across an attacking tiger, you would experience an increase in cortisol and adrenaline from flight or fight. This release of hormones aids you in deciding if it’s worth it to stand your ground and keep walking… or whether it’s time to climb a tree and hope the tiger moves on.

However, if you’re constantly under threat of bullies, these stress hormones are continuously released. This causes the heart rate, body temperature, and breathing capacity to go into overdrive.  So how does this affect a child’s learning performance? It’s fair enough to assume that if your subconscious is constantly reminding you that you’re in danger and that “you have to fight a tiger,” it will naturally divert your attention away from everything else. This makes complex activities such as learning very difficult. Learning is best done in a relaxed headspace.

Bullying among schoolchildren is an alarming situation that occurs almost everywhere in the world. The fact that children can quickly acquire adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) when they are subjected to violence or neglect makes it more severe than adult bullying.

In a nutshell, an ACE is any traumatic childhood experience that has a long-term impact on your emotional and physical health which also can affect a child’s learning process.

Try putting yourself in the shoes of a five-year-old to get a better understanding of this idea. All you know and understand at this point in your life is that your parents look after you. You have to go to school, and you probably want friends so that you can play with them. Any trauma that damages the foundations of your life as you know it qualifies as an ACE.

This can range from a classmate pulling your hair or ganging up on you with someone you thought was a friend. Watching your parents fight when going through a bad divorce is another example. The key is to maintain an open mind and avoid making assumptions about what might or might not be traumatic for your child.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) may have a significant impact on your child’s physical, mental, and intellectual well-being, affecting their ability to learn in specific ways.

Here are a few examples of how bullying can manifest itself: 

• Making fun of others 

• Threatening violence 

• Hitting or kicking 

• Pushing, shoving, or tripping 

• Spreading rumors 

• Stealing or harming things 

• Posting insulting comments online in social media or texts

Bullying can affect a child’s learning, emotions, relationships, self-esteem, and sense of safety. It may also make children feel uneasy in their daily lives at home or at school. Bullying can take a variety of forms, including:

Verbal Bullying – Sticks and Stones

To bully someone verbally is to attack another person with cruel, demeaning words. Name-calling, making racial, derogatory, or homophobic remarks or jokes, offensive, slurs, sexually explicit statements, or abusive language of some sort are all examples of verbal bullying. One of the most common types of bullying is verbal bullying.

Since bullying almost always happens when adults aren’t around, verbal bullying can be difficult to spot. Confronting the children won’t help either, since that would be a case of he said, she said. Furthermore, many adults dismiss the effects of verbal bullying and tell their kids to ‘toughen up’ or ‘get over it’. As a consequence, they normally advise the bullying victim to “ignore it.” Verbal bullying, in reality, should be taken seriously.

Verbal bullying can end up being very damaging to the victim, especially since it’s usually done in groups and over long periods of time. There are many cases of children committing suicide as a direct result of being bullied. Even the ones that survive are scarred for life and need extensive therapy and counselling to rebuild their self esteem.

Physical Bullying – Violence Among School Children

The most obvious type of bullying is physical bullying. When children use physical acts to achieve power and influence over their peers, this is what happens. Physical bullies are typically larger, heavier, and more aggressive than their peers. Kicking, scratching, punching, slapping, shoving, and other physical assaults are examples of physical bullying.

Physical bullying, unlike other types of bullying, is the easiest to spot. As a consequence, it is most likely what comes to mind when someone mentions bullying. Furthermore, it has gained more scrutiny from schools in the past than other, more subtle types of bullying.

Can physical bullying affect a child’s learning? Absolutely yes. Having marks, (whether its obvious or not) will definitely give them the fear of showing up to class out of embarrassment. Physical bullying can make a child fall sick from the physical abuse and from prolonged, stress-inducing fear. In some extreme cases, children receive serious wounds from physical bullying and end up hospitalized. None of this are conducive to the child getting a proper education.

Cyber Bullying – Zeros and Ones

Bullying does not necessarily take place face to face. Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that takes place online, via text messages, video, or email. It entails spreading rumors on social media platforms such as Facebook, sharing embarrassing photos or images, and creating fake profiles or websites.

Cyberbullying has made things even more complicated for today’s parents and teachers. Even if children go home from school, they can still be bullied online. It’s difficult for them to maintain their grades because of the continuous disruption.

In this current era of globalization, everything is on the net. Like adults, children try to find approval and acceptance from their peers online. Cyberbullying is the online extension of bullying in the real world. In a way, cyber bullying is worse because it doesn’t stop at school. When someone spreads a rumors about you online, you feel trapped because on one hand you want so desperately to correct the rumors and clear your name, but on the other hand you know from experience that trying to do so will only feed the bullies and make it worse. Needless to say, all of this takes precious time and mental energy from the child that could be spent on getting a good education.

Innocent Bystanders – Is There Such A Thing?

 Even if they aren’t directly involved, seeing another person being severely bullied can affect a child’s learning.  A child might react by spending more time to fit in with the cool crowd to avoid being a victim, thus spending less time on their studies. Watching their classmates get bullied also puts them in a very difficult position. If they ignore it and let it be, they feel terrible for not defending their friend. But they know that if they try to help, they’ll end up being the victim as well. There is usually nobody they can turn to to help resolve this inner conflict. For some who watched their friends get bullied literally to death, it’s something that they carry with them into adulthood, and maybe even old age.

Bullying has long-term consequences that extend well beyond the initial incidents and the individuals involved, and can also follow an individual for the rest of their life. Bullying can essentially ruin a child’s self-esteem, and as a result, it can manifest in ways that jeopardize potential prospects for years.

Bullying is a serious issue with schoolchildren and there is much debate as to how it should be handled. What is not up for debate, however, is the fact that bullying can have disastrous effects on the mental and emotional health of the victims, and in turn impair their sense of curiosity about the world and their ability to learn.

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