Children of all ages bully
The University of Arizona is conducting a study of the causes and effects of school bullying.Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Steve Nuñez
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Bullying is a common experience for many children. It's happening every day in classrooms, cafeterias and school buses. Now with more victims coming forward and more parents growing more worried because of a growing number of teen suicides, 9 On Your Side wanted to know: when bullying and cyber-bullying behaviors begin and how they develop over time?
14-year old Madison Bungard claims bullies picked on her every single day over four straight months.
"They started calling me names, like whore, slut, white trash," said a tearful Madison.
So what drives bullies to pick on kids?
UA Professor Sheri Bauman, Ph.D., is leading a three year study to find those answers. Her group of researchers just completed compiling a year's worth of data. According to Bauman, that data reveals two key bullying characteristics: 1. Bullying is not only harmful to the victims but also to the bully, and 2., bullying happens at all age levels.
"Kids who are victimized or who perpetrate bullying interestingly are at higher risks for suicides," said Bauman. "We don't know whether they're bullying because they have some mental disorders of their own that make them more prone to bullying later."
Research also shows children as young as third graders engage in bullying or are already becoming victims of bullies. And, they're being exposed to cyber-bullying playing seemingly innocent online games like Club Penguin.
"Well because they have little chat features or you can exclude someone from the game or you can make fun of someone," said Bauman.
Buaman said bullying behavior may go along with face-to-face encounters or develop into more serious cyber bullying as students get older.
9 On Your Side Reporter Steve Nuñez asked: "What is it that you would tell parents and teachers?"
"I would say that they must become knowledgeable in the technology that the children are using," said Bauman. "Even though they (computers)know how to use them the kids don't always know how to protect themselves."
Overall, Bauman's study will follow kids for three years to next determine the cause and effect of behavior changes so effective programs can be designed to prevent bullying.
Nuñez asked: "So what you're saying basically is that a zero tolerance policy does not mean that bullying is not occurring on school campuses?"
"No, it does not," answered Bauman. "And we tend to suspend the same kids repeatedly. We're not changing their behavior."
As for Madison, her parents didn't wait for the bullies to change their behavior. They pulled her out of school.
The UA received a $350,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct the study.
The research includes testing and monitoring 2,000 students from three school districts including Santa Cruz County, Altar Valley and Sahuarita.
A 9 On Your Side investigation revealed police have linked bullying to at least four teen suicides that have been reported in Tucson this year alone.