Research shows that a big percentage of kids don’t say anything to teachers or parents when they are bullied.
For example, a Dutch study reported in 2005 that half of kids kept silent when harassed by peers. Last year, a survey of high school students said 63 percent of gay and lesbian teens did not report being bullied. Over a third of those who did report it said the school staff did nothing in response.
A recent children’s health article took a comprehensive look at the reasons that so many kids who are bullied never tell an adult about the experience.
Here’s what I think are their top reasons, as well as my own:
1. Power: kids who are bullied feel powerless.
2. Self-blame: kids who are bullied feel like they brought it on themselves. The article cites a girl who said she brought on the mean comments because she, “was a little chubby.”
3. Fear of retaliation
4. Vulnerability: kids who are bullied might be awkward or less socially skilled and not sure how to reach out for help.
5. Fear of losing a friend
6. Feeling that adults will do nothing, so what’s the point.
7. Kids and teens are focused on peers, not adults
It’s also true that if a child is bullied for being different — not conforming to gender norms, for example — that kid might not want to speak up because doing so just highlights the differences that much more.
Once kids become focused on peers and social relationships (and less focused on their parents), I think keeping secrets from adults, whether it’s intentional or not, becomes more common. Unfortunately, that applies even when a kid is suffering enormously.
Thinking back, I remember running to my parents in elementary school any time someone made me feel bad. But in middle or high school, it would never have occurred to me. Why do you think so many kids keep quiet when they are bullied?
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