What is bullying?
We were all kids once, and therefore have experienced bullying before, either in our own personal lives or against friends and family. Bullying takes many forms: physical, like hitting or tripping; verbal, such as name-calling or teasing; social, like spreading rumors or excluding victims from a group. In our day and age, more and more bullying also takes place online, such as through instant messaging, Facebook, text messaging, chat rooms, and e-mail. Cyberbullying can be especially harmful for its victims (who are often also bullied at school) because it can reach them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The anonymity and indirectness of many online interactions can worsen the cruelty of its perpetrators and also make it difficult to trace.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines bullying more technically as “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 puts its victims at increased risk of depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and poor school adjustment. Bullying not only harms its victims, but impacts the perpetrators – who are at increased risk for substance abuse, academic and work problems, and violence later in life.
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Signs that a child is being bullied
StopBullying.gov offers these warning signs that a child is being bullied. Please note that this list isn’t all inclusive and that some children may not show obvious signs of being bullied.
- 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
Bullying victims often don’t seek help
If you were ever bullied or picked on growing up, you know how humiliating it is and the feelings of helplessness that it causes. These feelings can prevent kids from seeking help from adults, including their parents. A child who is bullied and feels helpless may want to reassert their own sense of control by trying to handle the issue on their own. They also may fear that adults will negatively judge them as weak. The low self-worth and sense of isolation that bullying frequently causes can make kids feel that no one cares about or understands their problems. Additionally, a bullied child may fear backlash by his or her attacker/s and peers if he or she seeks adult help.
It is therefore on parents to watch out for the signs of bullying, and to approach their kids with the necessary sensitivity to figure out what is going on. Understand that for the child, home is their refuge: don’t blame him or her for what is happening to them. You should take steps to nurture your child’s self-esteem, like pointing out their positive attributes and talents, and educating them about bullies and bullying to put the problem in perspective. Teach your child not to be afraid to seek out adult help, and that in the end, it takes adult help to stop the bullying.
Children who are being bullied should know that in many cases, bullies are looking to provoke a reaction. Matching violence (like hitting) with violence is therefore not the best way to fight back, and in schools with a “zero tolerance policy” for physical violence, hitting back may get the child expelled. Kids who are being bullied need to know how to simply walk away and not engage with their bully’s provocations.
Finally, if your child is being bullied by other kids at their school, you need to contact school officials and the child’s teachers. Knowing your child is being bullied can provoke a strong emotional reaction; however, the school will be in a better position to help you and your child if you report the facts of the matter objectively.
Bullying Awareness Month serves an important purpose. However, we should all do more year-round to ensure that our kids are safe from this type of abuse.
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We want to help
Cory Watson Attorneys is representing victims of abuse and violence. If you or your child are a victim of bullying, contact us today and ask us to help. Our phone number is 1-877-562-0000, or you can fill out the free consultation form on the top righthand side of this webpage.