They are not old enough to vote, but are still affected: it seems middle school bullying is influenced by the national political discourse. A recent study found a correlation between local Trump support and bullying among middle school children.
The study—which was carried out from 2013 to 2017—found an increase in bullying among 7th and 8th grade students in localities that favored the Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential election.
Based on the data, the percentage of voters supporting the Republican candidate was a statistically significant predictor of an increase in the number of students bullied on the basis of their race or ethnicity.
Though the study does not conclude that the Republican candidate directly caused the increased victimization among the children, the researchers suggest a ‘trickle down’ effect. The study notes that people sharing the president’s views might “be most likely to echo his statements and attitudes in their own behavior,” and more children in those regions are thereby exposed to aggression modeling.
In addition, the study highlights the role of media—particularly online sources—in affecting aggressive behavior among children:
[A]fter the presidential election, a prominent hate website, Daily Stormer, encouraged its audience to make foreigners and persons wearing Islamic clothing feel unwanted and frightened …
There is evidence that Russian operatives used Facebook ads to amplify political divisions and engender conflict on controversial topics including race, immigration, and sexual minority rights…
It is plausible that some of these efforts affected adolescents or adults who had influence on adolescents, especially their parents.
Bullying—including cyberbullying—can have deleterious effects on young victims, including increased absenteeism, anxiety, depression, poorer grades in school, damage to physical health and well-being, self-esteem, sleeping issues, social anxiety, and increased risk of suicide.
The study again underscores the importance of making sure children know what to do if they find themselves victims of middle school bullying.
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