Teen mental health has been on the rise in the US, with girls more likely to be bullied online and more likely than boys to suffer mental health problems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as of January 2017, 16% of girls and 11% of boys have been bullied online.
That’s an increase from 9% in 2012.
The prevalence of online bullying in the United States has also increased over the past five years, according to the CDC.
And, although girls are twice as likely to experience depression as boys, that’s more a consequence of the prevalence of gender stereotyping and gender-specific bullying in mainstream media.
Girls are three times more likely and boys are four times more than boys who experience bullying online.
But in the wake of the 2016 death of Hannah Montana, the hashtag #BlackGirlsHate has exploded in popularity and the number of girls being bullied has risen dramatically.
While it’s not yet clear why girls are more likely (or at least more likely) to experience bullying, one theory is that boys and girls are treated differently in schools.
According to the US Department of Education, boys are more often bullied for being overweight, for being smart, and for being feminine.
The Department of Justice also found that boys are also discriminated against in hiring because of their perceived gender, in a study released in 2015.
And because of gender stereotypes in popular media, it’s likely that girls are at a higher risk of being bullied in school.
“The reality is that kids have been getting bullied in schools for a long time,” says Ashley Johnson, the co-founder and president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a national nonprofit organization that supports black women in education and civil rights.
“The problem with school is that there are no safe spaces.
We’re just not getting a good education.”
While there are plenty of things that can be done to prevent bullying, there are also things that are not so simple, Johnson says.
“We need to recognize the importance of teachers and principals to have an education plan,” she says.
Educators need to ensure that all students are receiving the resources they need to stay healthy and successful, and that teachers are doing their best to ensure students have the resources and support they need.
“It’s important to have a school-wide plan and a plan that addresses bullying, bullying prevention, mental health, and bullying among students,” she adds.
While we’re all aware of the bullying epidemic, and we all know that bullying is a problem that needs to be addressed, the fact is, that the majority of bullying is in boys, Johnson notes.
“In schools, girls are three and a half times more often targeted, which is the opposite of what’s happening in the classroom,” she explains.
The problem is that we’re not making the connection.
We’ve been conditioned to think of boys and boys being bullies, and to think that they have more control over their bodies, they’re not.
But the truth is, boys and their families are the ones who are actually perpetuating bullying in our society.
“There is a lack of attention being paid to this, and I think the solution is to address the root causes,” she concludes.
So what can parents do to help their children in their time of need?
Johnson recommends that parents talk to their kids about bullying and how they can help to prevent it.
“When parents talk about bullying, they needn’t be making excuses,” she tells Vice.
“They need to know that these are real issues and they have to help to get this problem under control.”
Johnson is a writer for the National Coalition for Women’s Mental Health.
Follow Ashley Johnson on Twitter at @AshleyJohnsonMedia