Bullying can happen on the playground, in the hallway, online or even in the classroom. Studies have shown that 25 percent of public schools have reported bullying among kids that happens on a daily or weekly basis. On top of this, an estimated one in five high school students have reported being bullied in the past year.
In general, bullying is defined as the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. Bullying is an act of aggressive behavior that involves an intent to hurt or harm someone, an imbalance of power and often repetition.
Types of bullying
There are multiple types of bullying, including:
- Verbal — Name calling, teasing, taunting or making inappropriate sexual comments
- Physical — Hitting, kicking, tripping someone, beatings or destroying one’s property
- Social, emotional or psychological — This type of bullying can involve spreading rumors, public embarrassment or humiliation, or excluding someone from a group or activity
- Cyber bullying — This includes any type of threat, hate messages or other forms of digital abuse made online or delivered via electronic devices. Cyber bullying can occur through social media, text messages, email or other online platforms.
Warning signs of bullying
As a parent, the best way to help kids deal with bullying is by knowing the warning signs and how to respond. Some red flags that a child is being bullied at school might include:
- Avoiding school situations (like not want to go to after-school activities, walk to school or ride the bus)
- Sudden loss of friends
- Significant and unexpected drop in academic performance
- Not wanting to go to school or “faking” sick
- Lost or destroyed personal belongings, like electronics, clothing, jewelry, lunch money or school supplies
- Complaining of stomach aches, headaches or nausea, or visiting the nurse to avoid going to class
- Trouble sleeping, frequent nightmares, wetting the bed or crying oneself to sleep
- Sudden weight loss or changes in appetite, such as binge eating or skipping meals
- Waiting to use the bathroom at home (due to bullying in the school’s restroom)
- Low self-esteem or feelings of helplessness
- Fear of being left alone or clingy
- Distress after being on the phone or being online/using social media
- Unexplained or mysterious bruises, cuts, scratches or scrapes
- Running away from home, suicidal ideations, engaging in self-harm or other self-destructive behaviors
What to do if your child is being bullied
If your child is being bullied, he or she might not tell you about it. Bullying can make a child feel helpless, weak, embarrassed or ashamed. Children might worry that you’ll confront their bully or tell them to fight back. Or, kids might think that their parents won’t believe them or understand what’s really going on at school.
When talking to your child about bullying, it’s important to get all the facts and details about the situation. Remain calm, express your concern and listen to your child with a supportive ear. Remind him or her that being bullied isn’t their fault and praise them for speaking up about it. Assure your child that they are not alone and that, as a parent, you are here to help. If your child won’t confide in you, set up a talk with a trusted friend, a school counselor or another adult your kid might open up to, like their coach.
Before talking with the parents of the child who is doing the bullying, discuss the situation with your child’s teacher, counselor or principal. Find out about the school’s policies on bullying and if the school has enacted any anti-bullying initiatives. If your child tells you about another kid in their class who is being bullied, let their teacher and school officials know right away.