BULLYING

Teaching children how to interact with others in healthy ways will benefit them not only at school, but also throughout their lives. It will also help them recognize inappropriate behaviors such as bullying. Bullying is a pattern of aggressive behavior that makes another person feel hurt, degraded, threatened or humiliated. Some examples of bullying include name calling, pushing, leaving others out of an activity and vandalizing personal possessions. Cyber bullying occurs when these activities take place through computer communications and the Internet. It is important to help your child understand what bullying is and what they can do if they are bullied or see others being bullied.

WHAT IS BULLYING?

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. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

 

There are three types of bullying: Verbal bullying, social bullying, and physical bullying. Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things, including name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, and threatening to cause harm. Social bullying involves hurting someone reputation or relationships, and can include leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, and embarassing someone public. Physical bullying involves hurting someone's body or possessions and can include hitting, kicking, or pinching, spitting, tripping, or pushing, taking or breaking someone's things, or making mean or rude hand gestures. 

 

Bullying can occur during or after school hours. While most reported bullying happens in the school building, a significant percentage also happens in places like on the playground or the bus. It can also happen travelling to or from school, in the youth’s neighborhood, or on the Internet.

 

The 2010–2011 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that, nationwide, 28% of students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying. The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates that, nationwide, 20% of students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying.

THE ROLE KIDS PLAY

There are many roles that kids can play. Kids can bully others, they can be bullied, or they may witness bullying. When kids are involved in bullying, they often play more than one role. Sometimes kids may both be bullied and bully others or they may witness other kids being bullied. It is important to understand the multiple roles kids play in order to effectively prevent and respond to bullying.

 

When referring to a bullying situation, it is important not to label the kids involved. It's easy to call the kids who bully others "bullies" and those who are targeted "victims," but this may have unintended consequences. When children are labeled as "bullies" or "victims" it may send the message that the child's behavior cannot change, fail to recognize the multiple roles children might play in different bullying situations, and disregard other factors contributing to the behavior such as peer influence or school climate. Instead of labeling the children involved, focus on the behavior. For instance, instead of calling a child a "bully," refer to them as "the child who bullied, and instead of calling a child a "victim," refer to them as "the child who was bullied."

 

The roles kids play in bullying are not limited to those who bully others and those who are bullied. Some researchers talk about the "circle of bullying" to define both those directly involved in bullying and those who actively or passively assist the behavior or defend against it. Even if a child is not directly involved in bullying, they may be contributing to the behavior. Witnessing the behavior may also affect the child, so it is important for them to learn what they should do when they see bullying happen.

 

Most kids play more than one role in bullying over time. In some cases, they may be directly involved in bullying as the one bullying others or being bullied and in others they may witness bullying and play an assisting or defending role. Every situation is different. Some kids are both bullied and bully others.

 

It is important to note the multiple roles kids play, because those who are both bullied and bully others may be at more risk for negative outcomes, such as depression or suicidal ideation and it highlights the need to engage all kids in prevention efforts, not just those who are known to be directly involved. 

WHO IS AT RISK?

Bullying can happen anywhere, but depending on the environment, some groups may be at an increased risk. Learn what factors increase the risk of children being bullied or children more likely to bully others and what warning signs can indicate that bullying may be happening. You can also find out how bullying can negatively impact kids.

 

No single factor puts a child at risk of being bullied or bulling others. Bullying can happen anywhere—cities, suburbs, or rural towns. Depending on the environment, some groups—such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) youth, youth with disabilities, and socially isolated youth—may be at an increased risk of being bullied. 

 

Generally, children who are bullied 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; or do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention. Even if a child has these risk factors, however, it doesn't mean he or she will be bullied. 

 

Remember, those who bully others do not need to be stronger or bigger than those they bully. The power imbalance can come from a number of sources—popularity, strength, cognitive ability—and children who bully may have more than one of these characteristics.

IS YOUR CHILD BEING BULLIED?

There are many warning signs that may indicate that someone is affected by bullying—either being bullied or bullying others. Recognizing the warning signs is an important first step in taking action against bullying. Not all children who are bullied or are bullying others ask for help.

 

It is important to talk with children who show signs of being bullied or bullying others. These warning signs can also point to other issues or problems, such as depression or substance abuse. Talking to the child can help identify the root of the problem.

 

Many times kids won't ask for help, so it is important to know what to look for. If your child is at immediate risk harming himself or others, get help right away. Children react to bullying in different ways. Look for changes in the child. However, be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs. 

 

Some signs that a child is being bullied may include:

 

  • Shy, insecure, suffers from low self-esteem

  • Torn articles of clothing or missing belongings

  • Unexplained bruises, cuts or scrapes

  • Fear of going to school or participating in organized activities

  • Anxious or depressed when returning home from school

  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school

  • Quiet or seems withdrawn

  • Complains of illness such as stomachaches

  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits

  • Has trouble sleeping or often has bad dreams

  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

 

Here are some tips to help your child if he or she is being bullied:

  • Listen to what your child says

  • Support your child by talking about how to solve the problem

  • Avoid blaming your child for provoking the situation, this can make the child further victimized and may close the lines of communication

  • Ask specific questions about what, who, where and how long the bullying has been happening

  • Encourage your child to continue being themselves

  • Teach your child how to step away from the bullying situations instead of fighting back, which may make matters worse

  • Contact the school, principal or teacher immediately

 

Avoid these mistakes:

  • Never tell the child to ignore the bullying

  • Do not blame the child for being bullied.  Even if he or she provoked the bullying, no one deserves to be bullied.

  • Follow-up.  Show a commitment to making bullying stop.  Because bullying is behavior the repeats or has the potential to be repeated, it takes consistent effort to ensure that it stops. 

  • Do not tell the child to physically fight back against the kid who is bullying.  It could get the child hurt, suspended or expelled.

  • Parents should resist the urge to contact the other parents involved.  It may make matters worse.  School or other official can act as mediators between parents.

Statistics from the 2012 Indicators of School Crime and Safety show that an adult was notified in less than half (40%) of bullying incidents. Kids don’t tell adults for many reasons: Bullying can make a child feel helpless and kids may want to handle it on their own to feel in control again; kids may fear backlash from the kid who bullied them; bullying can be a humiliating experience and kids may not want adults to know what is being said about them, whether true or false, and may also fear that adults will judge them or punish them for being weak; kids may fear being rejected by their peers.

 

For more information about what to do if a child is being bullied, here is a Resource for Parents and Families. 

RESPONDING TO BULLYING

Bullying can happen anywhere, but depending on the environment, some groups may be at an increased risk. Learn what factors increase the risk of children being bullied or children more likely to bully others and what warning signs can indicate that bullying may be happening. You can also find out how bullying can negatively impact kids.

 

No single factor puts a child at risk of being bullied or bulling others. Bullying can happen anywhere—cities, suburbs, or rural towns. Depending on the environment, some groups—such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) youth, youth with disabilities, and socially isolated youth—may be at an increased risk of being bullied. 

 

Generally, children who are bullied 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; or do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention. Even if a child has these risk factors, however, it doesn't mean he or she will be bullied. 

 

Remember, those who bully others do not need to be stronger or bigger than those they bully. The power imbalance can come from a number of sources—popularity, strength, cognitive ability—and children who bully may have more than one of these characteristics.

PREVENT BULLYING

You can help promote healthy social development and prevent bullying by:

  • Talking with your child about what bullying is, why bullying is wrong and what they can do if they witness their peers being bullied

  • Teaching your child the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior

  • Teaching your child what qualities to look for in a friend, such as someone that makes them feel comfortable and likes them for who they are

  • Encouraging your child to get involved in social activities like school and community groups

  • Encouraging participation in out of school activities with a different peer group

  • Encouraging children to make friends and play with others during times when bullying can occur

  • Teaching children not to participate in teasing or hurting other children

  • Teaching children that reporting bullying is different from tattling on someone - bullying hurts someone and can be stopped

  • Encouraging children to seek help from teachers or other adults if they see someone being bullied

 

All kids involved in bullying - whether they are bullied, bully others, or see bullying - can be affected. It is important to support all kids involved to make sure the bullying doesn't continue and effects can be minimized.