In the 2017-18 Healthy Chicago Survey, Jr., Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) teamed up to learn more about child health in the city. In this report, we share results about parental concern about bullying and cyberbullying in Chicago.
Bullying is repeated, harmful behavior directed at an individual or group perceived to hold less power than the perpetrator. Bullying can take different forms such as physical behavior, verbal insults, or relational aggression. Cyberbullying, a relatively newer form of bullying, involves bullying through digital technology such as social media, text messaging, chat rooms, and gaming sites.
In Chicago, bullying was the second most frequent social concern that parents had for youth in the city, with 76% of parents considering it a big problem. This high level of concern about bullying is similar to parental concern about bullying at a national level.
The organization, STOMP Out Bullying, offers a HelpChat Line for children and teens. The Trevor Project offers a helpline for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386. The Bystander Revolution offers advice for bystanders, victims, and perpetrators of bullying.
There are a few ways that cyberbullying can differ from offline bullying. For instance, in cyberbullying the perpetrator can sometimes remain anonymous and there can be a large audience when the actions of cyberbullies go viral.
Parents can learn more about cyberbullying, warning signs, how to be more digitally aware, and how to report cyberbullying. Additionally, the organization Teens Against Bullying has advice for teens about preventing cyberbullying, what to do if they experience cyberbullying, and what to do if they see someone else being bullied online.
In our survey, boys and girls were about equally likely to have a parent who considered bullying a big problem facing Chicago youth (79% and 78%, respectively). We also examined whether parent gender was associated with bullying concerns and found that mothers were more likely to consider bullying a big problem (79%) than fathers (69%).
We also examined concern about bullying among different groups of parents in our diverse sample. Younger parents and older parents were both about equally worried about bullying and cyberbullying for Chicago youth. Latinx parents were the most likely to report that bullying was a big problem (84%), followed by non-Latinx Black parents (78%) and non-Latinx White parents (63%).
Children who attended public school were more likely to have parents who considered bullying a big problem (82%) than children who attended private school (71%).
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has an anti-bullying policy in their Student Code of Conduct. Additionally, a community organization in West Humboldt Park called Blocks Together has created a fact sheet about what to do if your child experiences bullying in CPS.
Parents who were very concerned about bullying for Chicago youth were also likely to consider drug abuse (79%), depression (78%), stress (74%), social media (74%), suicide (67%), and alcohol abuse (67%) to be big problems facing Chicago youth, underscoring the interconnectedness of these issues.
Our findings also highlight the fact that the public understands that bullying is a critical mental health issue. In the past bullying was sometimes tolerated as a rite of passage, but today bullying is recognized as a public health issue that healthcare professionals, educators, families, and communities can address together.
Other research suggests that parents are uncertain about how to get involved if their child is being bullied. Parents, teens, and children can learn more about bullying and how to stop bullying through organizations such as STOMP Out Bullying and at www.stopbullying.gov.
One way to combat the negative effects of bullying is to foster resilience among children and adolescents.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a setback, and can be nurtured and supported in children and adolescents. A recent national study from Lurie Children’s Hospital and UCLA found that mentoring by adults outside the family, neighborhood safety, and neighborhood assets such as libraries and parks can foster resilience in youth. Family dinners have also been shown to have positive effects on adolescent mental health and to help buffer the negative effects of cyberbullying victimization.