TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — October is National Bullying Prevention Month. According to PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center, one out of five students reported being bullied in 2019. The idea behind bullying prevention month is to spread awareness and strategies to help bring the rate of bullying down.
“Prevention is great, but we have nowhere in the world - and this is a problem all over the world - has been able to eradicate it," Sheri Bauman, a University of Arizona Professor of Counseling, said.
It's a problem that impacts students in school but also adults in the workplace. Bauman said even though institutions and businesses have policies against bullying, it still happens much like it does on the playground.
"It does occur in the workplace, and people often are silent because they're afraid they'll lose their job or that the person will realize they've reported them," Bauman said.
She said bullying includes everything from physical altercations to verbal threats and teasing, as well as cyberbullying.
"One of the things I've learned in my research is that adults respond to the physical bullying, but they kind of dismiss the rest of it," She said. "And the research is pretty clear that that's actually more harmful psychologically."
Bullying has grave impacts on people and Bauman said bullying is often connected with cases of depression and anxiety.
"That's absolutely been found a gazillion times in different studies in different places that those who are involved in bullying, not just the target, have higher rates of anxiety and depression," she said.
But throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, students and adults were working from home. Some researchers believe that bullying continued at the same rate and worried that cyberbullying would increase.
“We certainly know that during the time that the students were online that face to face bullying diminished, it's not clear yet whether cyberbullying increased," Bauman said.
There is one study conducted by professors from Boston University said their datat showed "school bullying and cyberbullying both dropped about 30-40 percent as schools shifted to remote learning in spring 2020."
Bauman said while the data is still being collected and isn't definitive at this point, one thing is clear - the regular bullying was disrupted by the pandemic.
“Bullying is about status and position in the peer groups. It's a hierarchy," she said. "Well, that was disrupted in the pandemic."
Whether it's with children or adults, there are tools and strategies to help.
“One of the few measures to respond to bullying that's been found to be effective is humor," Bauman said.
She said if you say a clever retort back to the bully, especially if those watching find it funny, it helps disarm the bully. There are many resources from apps to school and community programs to help give people strategies to fight against bullying. Bauman said sometimes kids don't want to tell their parents if they are being bullied because their parent's reaction might make them more of a target.
"Sometimes the conversation at home, instead of saying, 'is anybody bullying you or picking on' you say, 'you know, I keep reading about bullying and kids being like, what's it like in your class, what's it like at your school,' so they don't have to personalize it," she said.
The Arizona Department of Health Services has online resource for families that need help against bullying. School districts across southern Arizona like Tucson Unified also have resources for students and families from on campus counselors to events throughout the year.
The National Bullying Prevention Center declared October 20 as Unite Day and encourages people to wear orange to spread the values of inclusion and kindness.
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