CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Adults often write off bullying as a harmless part of growing up. They are wrong. Bullying often spells long-term problems for both bullies and victims. It is one of the reasons students feel schools are more dangerous than they really are. It is also a common thread in a number of school shootings.
Bullying happens all over the world. It always involves mean or vicious behavior, repeated over time, and a stronger bully preying on a weaker victim.
Researchers have found that bullying affects about 30 percent of teens and preteens, either as victims, bullies or both. Taken as a group, they paint a grim picture of bullying's long-term effects -- depression into adulthood by victims, anxiety and low self-esteem.
Students across the country rallied against bullies early this month with the death of Ashley McIntyre, who was said to have been "bullied to death." Ashley was a student at Liberty High School, in Bridgeport, Harrison County. She committed suicide. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death in West Virginia in the 12- to 21-year-old age group. About 60 percent of bullies have at least one criminal conviction by age 24. Forty percent have three or more convictions.
According to one myth, bullies torture other kids to make up for their own insecurities. In fact, researchers have found that some bullies have an inflated sense of self-worth, which can make them feel like they have the right to push people around.
Another false assumption is that bullies pick on victims who are physically weak. Instead, studies have found that bullies are most likely to go after kids with few or no friends.
While people tend to associate physical bullying with boys, girls can be both bullies and victims.