Bullying can take many different forms but is defined as the aggressive behavior of one or more people against another for any number of reasons. It results from a real or imagined power differential. Sometimes it is an older kid picking on a younger child or a popular set of teens bullying the outcast.
Regardless of how it happens or to whom, both the person being bullied and the bully may suffer from permanent and serious damage. Bullying is an offense that is often repeated frequently over time.
Types of Bullying
There are some common ways a person can be bullied. Bullying can include threats, physical attacks, spreading of rumors or excluding and making fun of a particular person.
Verbal abuse as a bullying tactic can include teasing, taunting, name-calling, threats and even unwanted sexual comments.
Also called relationship bullying, this type is designed to destroy a person’s reputation or relationships. It can be as simple as excluding someone from a social event, influencing others to avoid someone, spreading rumors about that person or embarrassing them in front of others.
Cyberbullying takes place online and consists of threatening or mean emails, text messages or posts on social media. Cyberbullying is very common in our modern society.
Possibly the most damaging type of bullying is physical bullying which may include hitting, kicking, punching, tripping, pushing, spitting, or taking and breaking other people’s belongings.
How Do I know if My Child is Being Bullied?
As a parent or adult in charge of children, the first thing to be aware of are the warning signs of bullying. Below are some things to look for in your children and if you notice any of these signs, take swift action to correct the problem.
- Showing signs of feeling helpless or lack of self-esteem.
- Unexplained injuries.
- Lost or destroyed property and belongings.
- Faking illness or frequent stomach or headaches.
- Changes in eating habits, skipping meals or extra meals when their lunch money or lunch is stolen.
- Nightmares or difficulty sleeping.
- Self-destructive behavior; suicide thoughts or comments, running away from home or other harmful activities.
- Avoidance of social situations or loss of friends.
- Drop in grade scores or reluctance to attend school.
Bullying is a serious issue with severe consequences especially for the person who is bullied. If you think your child is the victim of bullying do not wait, take action to stop it immediately.
Steps Parents Can Take to Prevent Bullying
The first and probably most effective way to prevent bullying is to teach your children how to handle bullying if it happens to them. You may even want to practice at home different scenarios to help them become confident in their abilities to handle the situation. By empowering your kids, you give them a voice they may otherwise not use after the fact.
Another critical factor is setting technology boundaries. Talk to your kids about cyberbullying, what it is and how not to respond and how to disconnect with those “friends” who are being aggressive and mean. Make it a practice to share Facebook or social channel accounts so that you can see who your child is connected to and the type of content they are experiencing.
Monitor text messages on your kid’s phones and keep computers in a family room.
Be sure you or your partner does not use bullying behavior at home. Children learn what they see and hear. Be sure to educate your children on the legal ramifications of bullying and the serious damage it can cause. This alone may help to prevent your kids becoming a bully.
Steps to Take if Your Child Has Been Bullied
Most bullying takes place in school or on school property, so the first thing to do is report it to the school administration. You will want to meet in person with your child’s teacher, the principal or superintendent as well. Make notes of the specifics of the incidents. If the abuse is severe and taking the steps above does not resolve it, you will want to contact the U.S. Department of Education for assistance.
Talk with your child about the situation and assure them it is not their fault. Tell them they were right to come to you and report it. Be sure to glean all the specific details about who is doing the bullying, what type of bullying is going on, when and how.
What Rights do Children Have in the U.S. Against Bullying?
The laws specific to bullying are set at the town and state level. There is no federal law regarding bullying, but the U.S. Department of Education addresses bullying issues and can help resolve them or intervene in particularly serious cases.