How Bullying Can Affect Young Adults in College

University student getting teased at on campus

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It's a well-known fact that bullying is a problem during childhood and the teen years for many kids. There have been numerous cases of children and teens committing suicide due to their despair over being singled out and bullied for a wide range of reasons. Stomp Out Bullying is one of many organizations that works on anti-bullying campaigns, focusing on children in school. 

Bullying doesn't end with childhood. College students, young adults, even older adults can be victims of bullying.

There is no reason why anyone should have to endure this kind of hostile, hurtful behavior. If your child—whether college age or in the working world—is experiencing constant harassment and bullying, there are steps to take to stop this treatment.

What Parents Can Do

If you find out that your young adult has been bullied:

  • Discuss with your child how they want to handle the harassment. Let them know you are there for them and determine if they want your help. Do not hesitate to check on your child if you are concerned about their state of mind, or to reach out to the school administration. You are your child's best advocate in a crisis.
  • Find out pertinent and detailed information about what the bullies are doing—this includes dates, times, places, actions, etc. Document everything. Make sure to take screenshots of social media attacks if possible, and get contact information for the bully, including social media profiles.
  • If your college-aged child has been threatened in person or online, contact law enforcement.
  • Obtain a copy of the college’s anti-bullying policy to determine if the aggressor violated a school policy.

Warning signs that your child is being bullied:

  • They are missing classes
  • They are suddenly anxious and have changes in their self-esteem
  • They have unexplained changes in their grades
  • They seem afraid of going to classes or taking part in organized activities or clubs with peers

As a parent, it may help to mention in a conversation that you’ve read a lot about bullying and cyberbullying in colleges as if they know anyone at their college that might be happening to. Assure your child that you love them and that the bullying is not their fault and that you will help them.

By opening up a discussion about bullying with your young adult, you will give him or her the opportunity to share what has been going on in his or her life. It's important that parents realize that this can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable thing for any young adult to admit, but talking about it is imperative to fix the problem before something drastic happens.

What Young Adults in College Can Do

What you can do if you see instances of bullying:

  • Be supportive of the person who is being bullied. Be a friend, sit with them in classes, and invite them to participate in any on-campus activities. Being an understanding and supportive friend can mean so much.
  • Don’t be afraid to report bullying — tell a school counselor or resident advisor and be sure to share all the details of what happened.
  • If you feel safe and comfortable, you can stand up to the bully — tell the bully that what they are doing is mean and wrong. However, don't provoke someone who may lash out at you for your actions. You can always go to the authorities on campus for help instead of managing the situation on your own.

Extending yourself in a supportive and non-judgmental way will give the person being bullied the opportunity to share their concerns and fears about their situation. While it may seem a little uncomfortable to get involved, helping someone who is being mistreated is the right thing to do, even if it is just walking him or her to the college advising office. 

If you are being bullied:

  • College student leaders can be effective in minimizing insecurities that can fuel the behavior of bullying in college and cyberbullying in college. They can create programs to include more students, such as freshman orientation, and make students aware of the various activities and clubs offered at the college. These activities keep college students busy which can lead to bullying prevention in college.
  • Contact the school during hours of operation and schedule an appointment or call with the department that oversees student affairs. 
  • Don’t fight back against the bully. It won’t make things any better and could get you into trouble.
  • Don’t skip classes or any avoid any friends or student groups you might belong to—you have as much a right to be there as anyone else.
  • If pledging a fraternity or sorority, be sure any hazing activities feel safe. If they don’t, speak to a resident advisor.
  • Know that it is not your fault because no one deserves to be bullied!
  • Never keep the fact that you are being bullied to yourself—tell a friend or a resident advisor. There is no need to be uncomfortable about admitting that someone is bullying you—it is the bully who is in the wrong, not you.
  • No matter how bad you feel, hurting yourself or thinking about suicide is not the answer. If your college has a peer mentoring/listening group or a counseling center, talk to them and ask for help.
  • Outline the details, not in an angry rant, but as if you were telling a friend what occurred.
  • When you meet with a member of the school’s administration, tell your story and ask for help. Make sure to relate the facts and leave your emotions out of it. If you feel the bully has violated the school’s anti-bullying policy, bring this up calmly into the conversation. If you feel more comfortable bringing a friend or advocate with you to any meeting where you will be discussing your situation, don't hesitate to request this from the administration. You have the right to feel safe during these conversations.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

On the first Monday of every October children, teens and adults can participate in Blue Shirt Day World Day of Bullying Prevention by wearing a blue shirt. It's a time when everyone can wear a blue shirt and join in solidarity to stop bullying and cyberbullying on the first Monday of every October.

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