Bullying. It’s not a new issue, but it’s been in the news a lot in the last few years. By now, you probably know a little about the negative effects that being bullied can have on a young person – it’s detrimental to self esteem and confidence, and can even affect a child’s physical health. And it doesn’t stop in childhood – the harmful effects of being bullied as a child can stay with a person well into adulthood, manifesting as mental health issues, poor social relationships, and less success in education and career.
So we know that bullying is harmful. But as we learn more about it, new research is showing that mentoring can play a powerful role in both helping young people overcome bullying and preventing the hurtful behavior before it ever occurs. In our own research at BBBS, we’ve seen again and again how children with Bigs have higher self esteem, better relationships with their peers, and increased success as adults. Basically, in every area where bullying can harm a young person, mentoring helps.
Across the country, doctors, researchers and policy makers have also been looking at the ways that mentoring can counteract bullying. MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and the US Department of Health and Human Services both note the valuable role that mentors can play in preventing and responding to bullying. Compelling research shows that adult mentors can mitigate the impact of bullying – helping their mentee talk about it, building resiliency, and addressing depression and other mental health issues that can result from being bullied.
Additionally, a new study from the University of Minnesota has shown that among teens, mentoring can make a young person much less likely to be a bully. After 18 months in a preventive intervention program that included one-on-one mentoring, teens said they did much less gossiping, ostracizing and other forms of social harassment.
Findings from these studies and others continue to indicate that building strong, supportive relationships with adult mentors has many benefits for young people, helping them avoid bullying and setting them up to thrive.