The statistics on bullying are upsetting. In a recent national survey of overweight sixth graders, 24% of the boys and 30% of the girls experienced daily teasing, bullying, or rejection because of their size. The number doubles for overweight high schoolers with 58% of boys and 63% of girls experiencing daily teasing, bullying or rejection because of their size. Bullying has become epidemic in America. Many children are victims of sexual bullying, cyber bullying, and overweight children are especially targeted during this childhood obesity epidemic. The problem is finally getting the attention it deserves. In 2009 Oprah Winfrey announced the beginning of a national conversation to stop bullying in schools. And a national campaign to stop bullying began in 2010, with the declaration of October as National Bullying Prevention Month. Yet, reports of child and teen deaths related to bullying continue. With the spotlight on this troubling phenomena, research is being conducted to better understand, prevent and treat bullying. Many organizations are working to educate children, parents, and schools about it. For example, a study published in the May 2010 issue of Pediatrics found that “obese and overweight children had up to a 2-fold increased risk of being bullied than their peers who were not obese.”
What is bullying?
The US Department of Education’s resources on bullying warn that too many organizations are creating their own definitions of bullying. After a thorough review they found that nearly all of the definitions incorporate four key concepts:
- “Bullying involves intentional, and largely unprovoked, efforts to harm another.
- Bullying can be physical or verbal, and direct or indirect in nature.
- Bullying involves repeated negative actions by one or more against another.
- Bullying involves an imbalance of physical or psychological power.”
While it feels somewhat clinical and removed to define bullying in this manner, we must do so to address the issue in a consistent and effective manner. However, we must also talk about this issue in plain English to keep it real and to understand the impact bullying has on the victim. Overweight children and teens who are bullied are often called names, punched, kicked, harassed, teased, ganged up on, humiliated, left out, and ignored relentlessly either in person, or in social media by mean and often troubled peers. Bullying victims often feel depressed, sad, lonely, alienated, ostracized, angry, powerless, anxious, and fearful. It is imperative that we address bullying in our schools, neighborhoods and communities because every child has the basic human right to feel safe and secure.