numerous campaigns to bring bullying into the national spotlight, intimidation
and aggression among school-age children continues to be a serious problem in
the U.S., reports the anti-bullying website Stopbullying.gov. In fact, federally collected
data suggests up to 22 percent of students ages 12 to 18 nationwide experience
bullying at some time.
is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived
power imbalance. In most cases, a bully uses physical strength, access to
embarrassing information, or popularity to control or harm others.
to experts, bullying usually falls into three categories:
- Verbal bullying, which can
include teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting,
and threats to cause harm;
- Social bullying, which
involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. This type of
bullying includes leaving someone out on purpose, telling others not to be
friends with someone, spreading hurtful rumors, and embarrassing someone
in public; and
- Physical bullying, which
involves hurting someone or their possessions. Physical bullying commonly
includes hitting, kicking or pinching, spitting, tripping or pushing, and
taking or breaking another student’s possessions.
has become an increasing problem in recent years, as young people spend more
and more time on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and related sites,
reports the Second Youth Internet Safety Survey. Cyberbullying most commonly
includes sending hurtful or threatening emails or instant messages, spreading
rumors, or posting embarrassing photos of others. In many cases, cyberbullying
is a continuation of the physical or verbal bullying that takes place at
Who’s at risk
child can be bullied, but some populations are at greater risk, such as
lesbian, gay, and transgender youth and those with disabilities. Socially
isolated youngsters also are common targets, as are those who are overweight,
wear different clothing, or are perceived as somehow different. “New kids” at
school — which can include members of military families who move frequently —
might also be the target of bullies.
who are bullied often hide it from their families, so bullying might be ongoing
for some time before it is reported. However, there are numerous red flags
parents should be aware of, including:
- unexplained injuries;
- lost or destroyed clothing,
books, electronics, or jewelry;
- frequent episodes of feeling
sick or faking illness;
- difficulty sleeping or
- 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; and
- self-destructive behaviors such
as running away from home, harming themselves, or talk of suicide.
who are bullied often are reluctant to ask for help. They might feel they can
control the situation on their own or that asking for help will only make the
situation worse. Many youngsters who are bullied also feel humiliated by the
experience and might remain silent because they are afraid they will be judged
or punished for being weak.
communication is one of the most important tools available to a parent who
suspects their child is being bullied. Experts suggest staying in close touch
with your child; listen to him, get to know his friends, and show understanding
about his concerns. Make sure your child feels comfortable talking to you about
anything, and leave the door open to a discussion about bullying if it occurs.
If you find your child is being bullied at school, schedule a meeting with a
school official to address the situation. Learn the school’s official policy on
bullying and make sure it is being followed.
who are being bullied should be taught how to stand up to their tormentors in a
safe way. For example, practice scenarios at home where your child learns how
to ignore a bully and/or develop assertive strategies for coping with a bully.
However, physical violence — i.e., giving the bully a taste of his or her own
medicine — is never the answer and might get your child in trouble. Similarly,
a bullied child should never bring a weapon to school as that could lead to
suspension and even criminal charges. Instead, encourage a child who is being
bullied to stay close to an adult or a group of friends when a bully is around
and to immediately report instances of bullying when they are witnessed.
Silence on behalf of observers only allows bullying to continue.
once was considered a rite of childhood, but today we recognize it for what it
is: an act of violence and intimidation against someone who is smaller and
weaker. By listening to our children and making sure they understand the
dynamics of bullying and what to do about it, we can help reduce bullying
more information about bullying and ways to stop it, visit: