October is National Bullying Prevention month. During the entire month, schools and organizations work together to increase awareness of school bullying and help prevent its impact on children.
School bullying is the use of power to control another person. The student who is being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves or may be unable to guard against these attacks. Bullying always intends to harm the targeted child – usually psychologically, but sometimes physically, as well. Additionally, bullying is carried out by the same person or the same group of people who repeatedly go after the same child.
The children most at risk of being bullied are those who:
- Are less popular than others
- Have low self-esteem
- Have few friends
- Are depressed or anxious
- Have social power
- Like to dominate others
- Are concerned about their popularity
- Often also have issues with low self-esteem
- Are aggressive and often act impulsively
- Are easily pressured by their peers
Most bullying happens in middle school and about 1 in 4 children report having been verbally or socially bullied at school.
Types of Bullying
While bullying can be physical (for example: hitting, fighting, or forcing a person to do something they don’t want to do) or verbal (teasing, name-calling, threatening someone), today’s children also face social bullying:
- Cyber bullying – Kids practically live on social media, but this has created an environment in which the bully can be anonymous. Since they don’t have to face their target or witness the effects of their bullying, they don’t have to be sympathetic about the pain they are causing. Texting and social media allows the bully free reign to post embarrassing pictures, make rude comments, or post humiliating videos almost instantly and without recourse.
- Social Alienation – In social bullying, the idea is to damage someone’s reputation, get them excluded from social activities, and to get others to avoid them. This can often be accomplished by cyber bullying.
- Slut shaming – censuring a female’s character in sexual terms in order to embarrass, humiliate, or intimidate her for actions that are a normal part of female sexuality. For example: a male teen may be praised for his sexual experimentation, however a girl may be bullied and called a slut. This scenario has been explored in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why show (you can read our recent article about it here. In the show, the girl who is slut-shamed ends up committing suicide.
What are the Effects of School Bullying?
A child who is bullied may avoid situations and interactions with others that could actually be positive for them. The effects of school bullying can create depression and anxiety disorders in the child who is being attacked. Often this depression and anxiety will stay with the youth and follow them into adulthood. In fact, someone who was bullied in school is more likely to be the target of workplace harassment as an adult.
The symptoms of school bullying can be both physical and emotional. Your child may experience:
- School refusal
- Headaches, stomachaches or other aches or pains throughout their body
- Weight loss
- Nightmares and/or sleeplessness
Fight Back against Bullying
StopBullying.gov offers the following suggestions to help stop school bullying.
- Look at the kid bullying you and tell him or her to stop in a calm, clear voice. You can also try to laugh it off. This works best if joking is easy for you. It could catch the kid bullying you off guard.
- If speaking up seems too hard or not safe, walk away and stay away. Don’t fight back. Find an adult to stop the bullying on the spot.
StopBullying.gov also lists things your child can do to stay safe in the future:
- Talk to an adult you trust. Don’t keep your feelings inside. Telling someone can help you feel less alone. They can help you make a plan to stop the bullying.
- Stay away from places where bullying happens.
- Stay near adults and other kids. Most bullying happens when adults aren’t around.
- Stand up for others When you see bullying, there are safe things you can do to make it stop.
- Talk to a parent, teacher, or another adult you trust. Adults need to know when bad things happen so they can help.
- Be kind to the kid being bullied. Show them that you care by trying to include them. Sit with them at lunch or on the bus, talk to them at school, or invite them to do something. Just hanging out with them will help them know they aren’t alone.
Additionally, child psychologists, such as the professionals here at The Children’s Center, can work with your son or daughter to develop coping techniques that will teach them how to react in particular situations. Child psychologists can also help bullying victims rebuild their self-esteem and confidence so that future harassment can be avoided.
In all cases of school bullying, it’s important to seek help and report the incident as soon as possible. Ignoring the issue often makes it worse because the bully begins to think it is okay to continue hurting others. Additionally, the targeted child sometimes begins to believe what is being said about them.
We Can Help
For more information about how we can help your child learn to defend against school bullying, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.