While bullying is commonly thought of as an issue that adolescents must deal with, it is also affecting college-aged individuals.
Jeffrey Walsh, associate professor of criminal justice sciences, and his partner, Jessie Krienert, conducted a study at ISU on bullying one year ago.
“[We] are in the process of writing up the results … Research suggests that bully victims are a somewhat unique category in need of additional attention,” Walsh said.
Walsh said he and Krienert did not find a lot of active bullying in the college years; however, it is happening on occasion and therefore is a serious problem.
“Research tells us that bullying, both as a perpetrator and as a victim, can have long term psychosocial consequences, so regardless of the age or life-stage, including adults, we need to do more to end the experience for victims,” he said.
Bullying comes in many forms. The old idea of physical aggression still occurs, but today cyberbullying plays a large role in the issue, he said.
“Cyberbullying is the malicious spreading of rumors and threats that happen online. The size of the audience the bullying reaches is a large issue for this form of bullying,” he added.
Effects of bullying on an individual vary, but it is known that bullying is not just children acting as children.
Bullying has been linked to low self-esteem, depression, social anxiety, eating disorders, suicide, early experimentation with drugs and alcohol, relationship issues later in life and poor academic performance, Walsh said.
According to the Buffalo State University of New York Anti-Bullying Initiative, nearly 100,000 students drop out of school each year due to bullying.
“I don’t know specifics about this particular study, but I do not think that large number is unreasonable,” Walsh said.
“Bullying is destructive and labels are powerful. I have read many stories about youth dropping out, switching to home school or moving to another district to avoid bullying experiences.”
Although adolescents are still the most prone age group to become victims of bullying, it is a problem at any age and college individuals are vulnerable.
“College-aged people often have limited social supports with parents and siblings because they are often away from home,” he said.
“Fortunately, students in our particular study at ISU did not suggest bullying was a pervasive problem on our campus.”
Mary Jackson, senior journalism major, said she does not believe bullying is a major issue at ISU, but she’s sure it occurs.
“I think that bullying exists everywhere,” Jenna Cusumano, senior journalism major, said.
“I haven’t seen it firsthand at ISU, but I know roommates often don’t get along and verbal bullying comes into play.”
If a student witnesses bullying, reducing the power differential between the bully and the victim is often key to ending a bullying situation, Walsh said.
For more information about bullying and its consequences, contact Student Counseling Services at (309) 438-3655.