It’s estimated that between 20% and 30% of school-age youth are directly involved in or affected by bullying. That’s as many as one out of every three children!
As mentioned in our earlier post, Bullying Part I: The Bully, bullying is multifaceted. It doesn’t occur in a vacuum and it’s not black and white. School place bullying involves many different parties and roles and takes varied expressions. Across the spectrum of bullying, whether bullied, bullying, or witness, there are lasting, serious consequences for all involved.
Creating school places and a society that is safe for our children and teens starts with understanding bullying.
Here we’ll answer three common questions related to youth being bullied at school.
How can I protect my child from being bullied?
While no parent can protect their child completely from bullying, educating your children is a crucial first step. Make sure your child understands what bullying looks, sounds, and feels like, so they can spot it if it is happening to or around them.
Bullying can take many forms. It can be verbal, physical, or social. Spoken or written threats, name-calling, purposeful exclusion or rumor-spreading, aggressive hand gestures or the stealing or breaking of possessions are all forms of bullying. Boys and girls often bully differently. Young men may be overtly aggressive, physical, and impulsive, whereas girls are more likely to use relational aggression and act in passive-aggressive ways, which can make female bullying more difficult to spot.
Converse regularly and casually with your child about bullying and their peers and friends. Ask them how their day was, good and bad things that happened, and whether they’ve ever witnessed kids being bullied. Know that often kids won’t ask for help: they want to seem in control, are afraid of being a tattletale, being judged for weakness, or already feel isolated/uncared for. Be prepared to do some digging.
What warning signs should I watch for?
Your child may not openly tell you they are being bullied because of fear or insecurity. Keep your eyes open for:
- Unexplained physical injuries, like bruises or scrapes
- Frequent stomach aches, headaches, or feigned illness in avoidance of school
- Emotional volatility, sensitivity, or decreased confidence and self-esteem
- Avoidance of social situations, school, or distance from previous friends
- Difficulty sleeping or eating, nightmares
- Suffering academic performance, declining interest in school or extracurricular activities
- Self-destructive behavior like running away from home, substance use, self-harm, or mention of suicide
If my child is being bullied, what should we do?
Remind your child that if they ever feel at risk, scared, or threatened (in any situation), they should immediately involve an adult. This is especially true with bullying. However, if the bullying is more passive, there are ways your child may be able to resolve the situation on their own.
The website Stomp Out Bullying has some great tips for how kids can respond to bullying behavior on their own terms, like:
- Using casual, funny comeback lines
- Using self-protective mindsets and visualizations
- Building the ability to ignore and walk away from bullies
- Sticking with friends who agree that bullying is not cool
Remind your child to never keep bullying to themselves. They should always tell people that they trust, including an adult, whenever they are experiencing bullying. Remind your child that once other people know about the bullying, they can begin to create a safe environment for the child being bullied.