Bullies Beware: Everyone is looking for you; awareness is up, rate remains steady in recent years

Artwork Illustration depicts social media problem, Internet, cyberbullying, and harassment.
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The Relationship between Bullying and Suicide

Although kids who are bullied are at risk of suicide, bullying alone isn’t always the cause. Many issues contribute to suicide risk, including depression, problems at home and trauma history. Additionally, specific groups have an increased risk of suicide, including American Indian and Alaskan Native, Asian American, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. This risk can be increased further when these kids are not supported by parents, peers and schools. Bullying can make an unsupportive situation worse.

Effects of Bullying

Bullying can affect everyone: those who are bullied, those who bully and those who witness bullying. Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes, including impacts on mental health, substance use and suicide. It is important to talk to kids to determine whether bullying — or something else — is a concern.

Kids who are bullied

Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school and mental health issues. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:

• Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.

• Health complaints.

• Decreased academic achievement — grade-point average and standardized test scores — and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip or drop out of school.

• A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.

Kids who bully others

Kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood. Kids who bully are more likely to:

• Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults.

• Get into fights, vandalize property and drop out of school.

• Engage in early sexual activity.

• Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults.

• Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses or children as adults.


Kids who witness bullying are more likely to:

• Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.

• Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

• Miss or skip school.


Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part series. Tuesday’s story will explain how to report bullying and how organizations, including local schools, deal with it.

People have bullying and cyberbullying on their minds after a teenaged girl took her own life last month.

However, students are being bullied and cyber bullied at about the same rate as in recent years, according to a local survey of middle and high school students. The data addresses “who” and “how often,” it does not speak to “why.”

While police continue their investigation, regional research has uncovered a few certainties, said Michelle Stecher, executive director of the Eagle River Youth Coalition. The school district’s Healthy Kids survey questioned 1,000 local middle school and high school students and found:

Twenty percent of local middle and high school students say they’ve been electronically bullied.

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Middle school girls are three times more likely to be victims of cyber bullying than boys.

About one third of middle school girls say they’ve been cyberbullied.

High school students say twice as many girls as boys have been cyberbullied.

This year, three times as many females as males say they’ve been the victim of cyberbullying

The rate at which kids bully one another has not changed significantly since 2015.

As Stecher and others define it, cyberbullying is using an electronic tool to belittle someone else and have a sense of power over them.

Reports of bullying spiked a few years ago, when the term became more widespread. These days, it’s staying about even from year to year.

“We were using the term bullying more than we used to. People were being mean, and that was often reported as bullying,” Stecher said.

Being a jerk is generally not illegal

It’s generally not against the law to be jerk, said Heidi McCollum, Assistant District Attorney for the Fifth Judicial District.

Cyberbullying can approach hate speech, and hate speech can be illegal, but what’s illegal depends on all kinds of things, McCollum patiently explained.

“You could ‘what-if’ this forever,” McCollum said. “You have to look at the intent, the ramifications, what the mitigating and aggravating factors are, the age of the individuals …”

Hate speech depends on the content, McCollum said.

“It’s generally related to someone’s race, religion, national origin, color and sexual orientation. If it incites someone to physically harm another person, maybe. When it leads to torture, then ultimately murder, it would be considered,” McCollum said.

If it’s offensive and rude, then it could be considered harassment, and harassment could be considered a crime.

Could be.

If there is a suicide, then typically no one is charged in connection with that death, McCollum explained.

Juveniles are also handled differently than adults, McCollum said. Juveniles are not prosecuted. They are adjudicated.

McCollum said that in adult court:

• The District Attorney’s job is to do justice.

• The defense attorney’s job is to make sure the client’s rights are not violated and to provide a spirited and skillful defense.

• Judges administer justice fairly and evenly to both sides, provide an effective deterrent, punish, promote rehab through correctional programs, provide healing for victims and reduce recidivism.

Juvenile cases focus on what’s best for the child, McCollum said.

• The DA’s job in a criminal case, do what is in the best interest of the child, while in the process of doing justice.

• The defense attorney’s role is to do what is in the best interest of the child, while ensuring their rights are not violated and providing a defense.

• The Judges’ job is to do what’s in the best interest of the child.

Bullying Girls Differ From Boys

Girl bullying often differs from that of boys because girls and boys tend to behave differently, according to Boys are physical and open, while girls are often more secretive, using covert, emotional tactics, which is why hiding behind a computer screen or a cellphone is more appealing.

According to research conducted at the University of Miami, girls will:

• Often exclude other individuals.

• Ostracize victims.

• Spread vicious rumors about them, encouraging others to spread them, as well.

• Send intimidating emails from a fake account.

• Bully in packs or groups, inciting others in the group to bully.

Because girls’ bullying might not include physical violence, adults are sometimes slower to respond to it. It can also make low-level violence used by boys seem almost comforting.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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