Bullying

Unfortunately, today, we often hear about tragic stories of kids being traumatized due to the ugliness of bullying. Bullying can happen in many different ways, and if we are unaware of the signs of bullying, it can happen right under our noses. Here are some national statistics on bullying that show how this is becoming a crisis for our youth.

 

Statistics

In 2017, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) conducted the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. The results for this survey were alarming. According to the CDC, about 20% of students 9th-12th grade, nationwide, reported being bullied on school property in the past 12 months. 30% of students admitted to bullying others. Youth that have been victimized by bullying are not only the ones impacted by this. Youth who also witness bullying are affected by others’ actions. 70.6% of youth say they have seen bullying in their schools. 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% witness bullying once a week.


Types of Bullying

So what exactly is bullying? In 2014, the CDC created its first federal definition stating, “Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance, and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.” When it comes to bullying, there are different types of bullying that can happen at any place, location, or context. Some types of bullying include:

  • Physical: hitting, tripping, spitting, kicking, and destruction of a child’s belongings

  • Verbal: teasing, name-calling, taunting, or making inappropriate sexual comments

  • Psychological or social: spreading rumors about a child, embarrassing them in public, or excluding them from a group

  • Electronic: Cyberbullying involves threatening or harming others through the use of social media platforms, text messages, email, websites, or photos and videos shared electronically


Consequences of Being Bullied

When a child is being bullied, this can impact them holistically including their mental health, physical health, relationships, and academic achievements. According to the Mayo Clinic, when a child is being bullied, they are often at risk for the following:

  • Physical injury

  • Depression and/or anxiety

  • Loneliness or isolation

  • Low self-esteem

  • Eating disorders or self-harming behaviors

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Alcohol or drug use

  • Physical symptoms such as: heart palpitations, headaches, body aches, stomach issues

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Frequent absences from school

  • Poor performance in school

  • Hostile behaviors


Signs Your Child May Be Getting Bullied

We all know that kids can be pretty good at hiding their feelings, including if they are being bullied. A child may keep quiet about being bullied out of fear, shame, embarrassment. They may also fear backlash from the kid who is bullying them, or don’t want to be seen as a “tattletale” or being weak. These warning signs may be vague, but it’s important to keep an out on the following signs:

  • Lost or destroyed clothing, electronics, or other personal belongings

  • Unexplained injuries

  • Abrupt loss of friends or avoiding social situations

  • Poor school performance such as decline in grades, or reluctance to go to school

  • Headaches, stomachaches, or faking illness

  • Trouble sleeping or frequent nightmares

  • Changes in eating habits

  • Distress after spending time on the phone or online

  • Abrupt avoidance of electronic devices

  • Feelings of helplessness or low self-esteem

  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or thoughts of suicide


Signs Your Child is Bullying Others

As parents, we want to think that our child could never be a bully and harm other children, but it can happen to any family. Here are some signs that your child may be bullying others:

  • Gets into verbal and/or physical fights

  • They have friends who bully others

  • Are increasingly aggressive

  • Get sent to the principal’s office often or get detention/suspensions

  • They have unexplained extra money or belongings

  • Blame others for their own problems

  • Don’t accept responsibility for their actions/behaviors

  • Are competitive and worry about their reputation or being popular


Strategies to Prevent and Address Bullying

It’s important to start having these conversations with your children before bullying takes place. You want to keep the communication open and ask your child some of the following questions:

  • What good things happened today at school? What bad things?

  • What behaviors do you consider bullying?

  • What is it like at lunch, recess or on the school bus?

  • Have you seen bullying at school?

  • Do you have someone you can talk to at school if you're bullied?

It is also important to start talking to your child about how they should respond if they are ever bullied. Some techniques may include:

  • Walk away and remove yourself from the situation

  • If you feel safe, tell the bully directly and calmly to stop

  • Tell a friend about what happened

  • Tell a trusted adult at school what took place

  • Avoid places where they may not feel safe from bullying

  • Spend time with friends and adults who they trust and are supportive

As stated earlier in the article, there are high percentages of kids who witness others being bullied. As a parent, encourage your child to be a defender of bullying by taking action and doing some of the following:

  • Model empathetic and kind behaviors

  • Sit or walk with kids who may be a target for bullying

  • Question the bullying behavior if they witness it

  • Encourage their friends to question bullying behavior as a group

  • Report bullying to a trusted adult

  • Talk to the child being bullied in private

Lastly, we all know how social media has taken over a lot of our children’s lives. It’s important as a parent to stay on top of the newest social media trends as well as monitor your children’s cell phones and their personal social media apps and texts messages. Here a few guidelines to help your child stay safe online and prevent cyberbullying:

  • Model appropriate use of devices, such as time spent online and use of respectful language

  • Follow or “Like” your child’s social media accounts

  • Search online for information available on your child

  • Set up age-appropriate parental controls on all electronic devices

  • Establish rules and guidelines for when and where your child can use their phone or other devices

  • Create a contract with your child to sign regarding rules and expectations of technology use and behaviors

  • Agree not to take away your child’s devices if they are being bullied as this may discourage them from reporting it

  • When it comes to technology use, it’s important that we teach our children some guidelines to prevent or address cyberbullying. These include:

  • Don’t accept friend requests from unfamiliar people

  • Expect everything you post to be online forever

  • Don’t share photos or videos that you wouldn’t share with a parent or other caregiver/adult

  • Don’t reply to or forward any cyberbullying content

  • Block users who may be bullying you online


What to Do if Your Child is Being Bullied

It will be heartbreaking for a parent to find out their child is being bullied. We may be overcome with many strong emotions and feel out of control, or we may feel helpless on how we can help our child. It’s important to know your child’s school policy on bullying, curriculum and action plans. If you are concerned that your child is being bullied or your child has informed you they are being bullied, below are steps that should be taken to help your child:

  • Ensure safety: Support your child by letting them know you want them to be safe and that you will take the appropriate steps to protect them and end the bullying

  • Learn details: Ask your child to describe what happened and keep a record of details

  • Keep evidence: If your child is experiencing cyberbullying, take screen shots of the cyberbullying and save all relevant files

  • Contact the school: Contact the principal, school counselors, and any other educators as written in the school bullying policy

  • Follow up: Work with the school to develop a plan to respond to bullying and agree on steps to address the problem. Also follow up with the school to ensure bullying has stopped. If the school has not addressed the bullying, contact the school superintendent and state department of education

  • Contact service providers: Contact social media apps or phone service providers to report cyberbullying and request needs to remove any images

  • Contact police: Contact police if the bullying includes physical harm, sexual violence, threats of violence, or sharing child pornography or sexually explicit images

  • Contact community resources: Connect your child to a counselor or other mental health services if you are concerned your child is experiencing any depression, anxiety, or trauma related to the bullying.


Resources

With the growing number of bullying/cyberbullying, you can find many free resources online to help educate yourself and others on bullying and ways to prevent and address it. Below are great resources for further information and assistance on bullying:

www.stopbullying.gov

www.mayoclinic.org

www.stompoutbullying.org

www.cdc.gov

www.nobully.org            

www.kidpower.org


Rebecca White