Bullying can happen anywhere—at school, on the bus, at the neighborhood park, even within groups of friends.
According to StopBullying.gov, 49 percent of children in grades 4-12 reported being bullied at least once in the past month.
It’s not only our job as parents to protect our kids, but also to teach them how to protect themselves.
If you haven’t yet talked to your child about bullying, have the conversation. Here is some information and tips from Stephanie Pratola, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist in the department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Carilion Clinic and LearnPsychology.org/now/bullying:
- Bullying is when someone intentionally hurts or scares another person repeatedly—it could be name calling, spreading lies or rumors, social exclusion, stealing personal items, threatening, hitting or any other physical act.
- Bullying is never ok and it is never the fault of the person being bullied.
- If a child is being bullied, whether to handle it themselves or tell an adult depends on the severity of the situation—sometimes being assertive and standing up to the bully, or simply walking away, is all that is needed. If the bully is bigger, making physical threats or has a weapon, going to an adult is always the right thing to do.
- Talk to your kids about why people bully. Often it is to get attention, and not giving them the reaction they want can sometimes stop the bullying.
- Creating an environment where bullying is unacceptable is also important. Talk to your child’s teachers and administrators about their bullying policies and curriculum, and how they empower students to stand up for themselves and others.
- Make sure your kids know that if they see someone being bullied, it is their responsibility to take any action they safely can. Tell the bully to stop, and remove the person being bullied from the situation if possible.
- In some cases, bullies are children who are isolated or not accepted into a social group. Help your children learn to be mindful of how others are being excluded and some bullying could be prevented.
Before you can help your child deal with a bully, you have to know the bullying is happening. But kids don’t always talk about it—they may be embarrassed or scared.
So as a parent, it’s important to always watch your child's behavior.
- Has it changed recently?
- Are they more withdrawn, worried or sad than they used to be?
- Do they suddenly not want to go to school or be involved in certain activities?
Listen to what they’re telling you about what’s going on in their life and what they are experiencing.
You may feel helpless if you find out your child is being bullied, but there are things you can do:
- Get as many details as you can from your child and document what they say happened.
- Contact their school, if the bullying is happening there, ask about their antibullying policy and ask for their help with the situation.
- Help your child with a plan for what to do next—how to handle going back to school and seeing the bully, for example.
- Check back in with your child each day to see how they’re doing and find out what’s happening. Consider if they may need to talk to a counselor about the situation.
- If the bullying continues or is severe, meeting with school administrators, the school board or even involving law enforcement may be appropriate.
A Word About Cyberbullying
As kids get older and start using more technology, cyberbullying becomes a possibility. Bullies may use email, cell phones, text messages, instant messaging, websites or social media sites to harass their peers.
Be sure that you are aware of the technology and websites that your kids are using, monitor their activity on them and let them know that it’s okay to talk to you if they are being cyberbullied.
Click here for more information on the risks and rewards of teens and social media or visit cyberbullying.org/resources/parents.
For more information on bullying, visit StompOutBullying.org.