What is Bullying?
According to StopBullying.gov, bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.
In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:
- An Imbalance of Power:
- Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
- Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
Types of bullying can include:
- Verbal Bullying
- Saying or writing mean things
- Social Bullying
- Hurting someone’s reputation or relationships
- Physical Bullying
- Hurting a person’s body or possessions
According to The Bully Project, one in three children is directly involved in bullying – either as a perpetrator, victim or both. But there are steps parents, kids and educators can take to reduce bullying.
Who’s at risk?
According to stopbullying.gov, children who are bullied generally have one or more of the following risk factors:
- Are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what kids consider “cool”
- Are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves
- Are depressed, anxious, or have low self-esteem
- Are less popular than others and have few friends
- Do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention
However, even if a child has these risk factors, it doesn’t mean that they will be bullied.
What are the warning signs?
Stopbullying.gov says there are many warning signs can indicate if a child is being bullied. It’s important for parents to look for changes in their child. They should also be on the lookout for clues that their child may be the bully and not the bullied.
Your child may be being bullied if:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
If you know someone in serious distress or danger, don’t ignore the problem. Get help right away.
Your child may be bullying other kids if they:
- Get into physical or verbal fights
- Have friends who bully others
- Are increasingly aggressive
- Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
- Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
- Blame others for their problems
- Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
- Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
What can parents do?
- Help kids understand bullying
- Tell kids bullying is unacceptable.
- Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely.
- Make sure kids know how to get help. Encourage them to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied
- Keep lines of communication open
- Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
- Encourage kids to do what they love
- Being involved in activities can help boost confidence, help kids make friends and protect them from bullying behavior
- Be a good role model
- Demonstrate how to treat others with kindness and respect
Not too long ago, children who were experiencing bullying got a reprieve during off-school hours. However, with technology, bullying can follow a child home in the form of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can happen 24/7, can be anonymous and very difficult to trace the source. According to stopbullying.gov, examples of cyberbullying include:
- Mean text messages or emails
- Rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites
- Embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.
Parents can help prevent cyberbullying by helping their children explore safe ways to use technology.
- Be aware of what your kids are doing online
- Know the sites your kids use and ask questions about their activities
- Monitor your child’s online communications and tell your child it’s your responsibility as a parent.
- Ask for passwords – but tell them you’ll only use them in case of an emergency
- Ask to “friend” of “follow” your child on social media, or ask another trusted adult to do so
- Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they know someone who’s being cyberbullied
- Establish rules about technology use
- Be clear about what sites they visit and when they’re permitted to be online
- Show them how to be safe online
- Teach them not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others.
- Tell them to keep their passwords secret and not share them with friends
- Understand school rules
- Ask your child’s school if it has a technology policy
Anti-Bullying Laws and Resources: