What is bullying? By the textbook definition, bullying includes unwanted behavior or aggressive, an observed or perceived power imbalance and repetition of certain behaviors. Bullying can happen anywhere, both online and off. Bullying can be both direct (bullying that occurs in the presence of the victim) and indirect (bullying from afar, such as spreading rumors). Bullying can be physical, verbal, rational (i.e. libel and slander) and include damage to property. Some bullying can even be criminally prosecuted when it falls into certain categories such as assault, harassment, hazing, etc. In short, bullying comes in many forms, but all of them should be given equal consideration. If your child has complained of bullying or you suspect bullying, take the situation seriously.
Bullying has existed for centuries and it is still common today. With technology, it simply takes even more varied forms. Studies show the statistics are grim. 17% of American children report being bullied at least 2-3 times or more per month. Over 3 million students are victims of bullying yearly. Hundreds of thousands of them skip school because of it.
Signs of Bullying
If you are concerned that your child might be a victim of bullying, it is important to pay attention to possible indicative symptoms. Some signs your child may be being bullied include:
-Becoming aloof or withdrawn
-Showing fear, anxiety or nervousness when it’s time to go to school
-Fatigue and other signs of depression
-Loss of confidence
-Signs of physical abuse including scrapes, marks, bruises, etc.
-Speaking of other children with reverence or fear
-Choosing an illogical route to and from school
-Requests money or steals money
Long Term Effects of Bullying
It is important that bullying be addressed and stopped as soon as possible. Dealing with a bully is not about “toughening up.” It should be taken seriously as bullying can have long-term—indeed, lifelong effects. Those who are bullied as children are at high risk for depression once they reach adulthood. They also have an increased chance of a need for psychiatric treatment later in life. Recent studies have found that these effects are not only mental, but physical as well. Scientists have found links between childhood bullying and increased health risk in adulthood. Victims of bullying are at higher risk of health outcomes related to stress such as heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure, etc. They are also at higher risk of addiction, cardiovascular disease and other life-threatening diseases.
What Can Parents Do?
Bullying is often a big concern for parents, as they do not know just how much they should be involved. The answer is, get involved. First, speak to your child and get all the information. Do not judge him or her or blame them for the treatment. Realize that for your bullied child, home is a refuge and place of safety. Be careful not to ruin that, or you risk your child never telling you anything again. If your child’s school hasn’t communicated with you regarding the bullying, you should contact them immediately as well. Approach the situation with tact and calmness. It is understandable to be emotional, but as the adult, you must remain calm and report the situation correctly, as this will help the most.