Four-Year-Olds Learn Bullying Behavior

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

April 5, 2005

Bullying behavior develops at a very young age, research shows. A new study reveals that the more television 4-year-old children watch, the more likely they are to become bullies later on in school.

"It's scary [but] helpful, meaning that the research is showing us [that] wait a minute, we need to pay attention to all these issues early on," commented Jack Gallagher.

"These are the messages that kids learn about how to resolve conflict, how to be with their peers, and how to interact with other children," said Peter Sheras, a psychology professor at UVa.

Kids act out these aggressive messages on each other, sometimes unbeknownst to people in authority. "A lot of time, the damage is being done and the parents don't even know about it because the kids don't talk about it," said Gallagher.

The study also showed that children whose parents read to them, take them on outings, and just generally pay attention to them are less likely to become bullies. "It's a problem that isn't very visible to people and yet it has major impact all the way up to Columbine and some of those things that happen at the end of the scale," said Gallagher.

"We can prevent that from happening if we can change the atmosphere for those kids and we can also correct it because what's learned can be unlearned," said Sheras.

This is one of the many reasons why Governor Mark Warner signed a bullying bill Tuesday, April 5. Warner hopes the bill will prevent bullying in Virginia's public schools by protecting victims. The bill will also require parents to be notified when bullying was committed by or against one of their children.

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