From verbal intimidation to physical attacks, bullying behavior is an increasingly common occurrence in schools across the nation — and the rates are on the rise. Each day, an estimated 160,000 children skip school because they’re afraid of being bullied, says the Character Education Partnership. Studies also indicate that bullying is starting at ever-younger ages, happens more frequently, and is more intense than in the past. If your teenager is depressed or your child is often angry, he maybe a bullying victim
If you suspect your child is being bullied at school, you’re not alone. Look for signs that your child has been the victim of verbal, social, physical or electronic attacks, also known as cyber bullying, then take immediate action to rectify the situation.
What is Bullying?
Bullying can be defined as aggressive, unwanted behavior amongst children that is repetitive — or has the potential to be repeated — and involves either a real or a perceived imbalance of power. Underlying the widespread nature of the issue, more than 28 percent of children in grades six through 12 reported that they’d experienced bullying, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Bullying behavior can lead to serious, long-term problems, both for victims of bullies and for victims themselves.
Bullying may be verbal, social, physical or electronic and may include actions such as:
- Sexual taunting
- Spreading gossip and rumors
- Social exclusion
- Stealing or breaking possessions
- Creating fake digital profiles
- Using electronic devices such as cell phones or computers to bully
While most bullying activity takes place at school, it can also take place on the bus, on playgrounds, in the neighborhood and even online. Research shows that victims of bullying tend to be at higher risk for depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide.
Signs of Bullying
How do parents know when their child is being bullied? Your child may come home upset and tell you exactly what happened, or they may be embarrassed, afraid or angry and refuse to talk about it. Sometimes, bullies intimidate children into not telling through threats of retaliation. Other children may be afraid that involving an adult will be ineffective, or just make the problem worse.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, look for these warning signs:
- Bruises, cuts and other unexplained injuries
- Missing money or possessions
- Clingy behavior or fear of being alone
- Reluctance to go to school or engage in peer-group activities
- Changes in personality or temperament
- Unexplained anxiety, depression, sadness
- Changing eating or sleeping habits
- Starts bullying younger children or siblings
- Dropping grades
- Not eating or using the restroom at school
- Expresses feelings of self-loathing or insecurity
- Running away
- Talking about suicide
How to Help Your Bullied Child
When your child has experienced bullying, providing them with a safe place to talk is essential. Let your child know that you’re on their side and that you want to discuss the problem and help them. Once you’ve opened the lines of communication, it’s time to take the problem up with the school.
Meet with your child’s principal and teachers and demand that they take immediate action to stop the behavior. Chances are, your child is probably not the only one being bullied. Educate yourself as to the school’s policies on bullying, as well as any state laws. If you suspect that weapons, sexual abuse, threats of serious physical harm, theft, extortion, or hate crimes are involved, it’s time to notify law enforcement. In the case of cyber bullying, work with your child to set up privacy walls or take an online hiatus while the issue is being worked out.
Though you may feel angry or upset, remain calm in front of your child. Taking immediate action shows your child that you are on their side and that you are taking steps to protect them from further harm.