Bullying Can Have Lasting Effects on All Children
As your children grow up, they face many new challenges. Whether it be new subjects in school they struggle to comprehend, growing competition in sports, trying to navigate romantic relationships, or puberty, your child will experience plenty of new things as they go through school. However, weaved within these experiences happens to be something no parent wants their child to go through, and that’s bullying.
We often see bullying depicted in movies and TV shows where a larger individual often picks on a smaller child who is seen as nerdy. The only reason they are viewed as nerdy or “uncool” is either because of their looks, wearing glasses or dressing a certain way, or doing well in school. However, not all bullying looks this way.
Bullying remains prevalent in schools. While it has gone down from 23% of children being bullied in 2005 to 20% in 2016, it remains a real threat to children from elementary school through high school.
What is Bullying?
To understand how to discuss bullying with your kids, you must first understand what it is. While there is no specific definition for it, it is often described as repeated aggressive behavior whether physical, verbal, or emotional with the perceived intention of causing harm to another child. There are often lasting effects of bullying for those bullied and for the bully.
There are different kinds of bullying, including:
- Verbal: This includes the use of spoken or written words or language. It includes teasing, name-calling, inappropriate comments, which are often sexual, taunting, and threats of violence.
- Social: This is sometimes referred to as relational bullying. It is characterized when one individual ruins another child’s social reputation or relationships. It involves intentionally excluding them from groups, convincing other kids to not be their friend, publicly embarrassing them, or spreading rumors.
- Physical: This is arguably the most notable form of bullying. One child will go out of their way to cause physical harm to another child and their belongings. It includes punching and kicking, spitting, tripping and pushing, or breaking their belongings.
In the current age of technological advancement, bullying has moved from schools and playgrounds to the digital world. Cyberbullying is any bullying that takes place over digital devices such as smartphones, computers, laptops, tablets, and more.
It involves the sending or posting of hurtful, negative, or false comments, pictures, or other types of content over digital devices.
The most common places cyberbullying occurs on are:
- Social media, including Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and more
- Text messages
- Instant messaging
- Open forums
In many instances, individuals will share the personal or private information of another child on public spaces with the hopes of causing public humiliation. However, there are instances where cyberbullying can cross a line and become a criminal offense.
According to data collected by the School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 15% of students age 12 to 18 reported being bullied either online or via text. With more and more children using digital devices, the rates of cyberbullying are expected to increase.
How to Discuss Bullying
It is important for you as a parent to always discuss bullying even if there are no instances of it. This is crucial in teaching them what bullying is, while also teaching them how negatively impactful it is for someone else. It also lets them know that if they do go through it, they can talk to you about it since that conversation has already been started.
There are other important things to keep in mind when discussing bullying with your child.
Don’t use the word bully.
While it may seem counterintuitive to avoid the use of bully and words like it, it helps create a safer space for your child to speak with you. When using the words bully and victim, you create an idea that this is just the way that it is. You child may feel as though they can’t change these roles. They feel like these are unchangeable labels of their identity.
Also, the word bullying gives a feeling of powerlessness. Many children don’t feel comfortable admitting that they are being bullied.
When communicating with your child, try asking them how their relationships with their friends are and how they get along with other kids. Ask them what goes on in the classroom. Encourage them to open up and describe their own experience.
Keep the conversation casual.
To go along with the previous step, keep the conversation casual. Make sure your child feels as though this conversation isn’t something overly important. While it may be incredibly important for you, your child could be embarrassed because they are getting bullied.
You can open the discussion while you are making dinner or cleaning up the house. Even a drive to the store can be used as an opportunity to discuss it.
Ask them simple questions that encourage them to describe what they think bullying is and what it entails. By allowing them to chime in and give their opinion, you can make them feel as though their opinion matters and that they aren’t being lectured to.
This comfortability helps builds a strong relationship and trust that is needed to discuss bullying appropriately.
Discuss plans for resolution.
This can be difficult for many parents. It can be hard to hear that your child is being bullied at school. You may want to go to the school yourself and solve the problem, call the bully’s parents and discuss their behavior, or even confront the bully on your own. However, often, these all backfire.
You want to help your child create their own plan to stop their bullying. They aren’t looking for you to solve their problems but for guidance on how to solve the issue on their own. Help them create a solution that not only stops the bullying but also empowers them.
When they are telling you about their experience, patiently sit and listen to what they are saying. Do not interrupt or offer any advice or your opinion until they are done speaking or ask for it. Let them feel like they aren’t being told what to do. Allow them to feel like they have some control.
NOTE: It is important to never encourage your child to respond with violence.
Bullying is still incredibly prevalent in schools. A meta-analysis showed that 49% of students experienced bullying at least once a month, while 23% experienced it twice or more.
To ensure that your child’s bullying does not continue, you must be aware of the signs and symptoms of their abuse. These include:
- Unexplained injuries
- Damage to their clothes or belongings
- Eating too much or too little
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Loss of friends
- Lack of interest in social situations
- Decreased self-esteem
- Declining grades
If you notice any number of these signs, consider calling your child’s school to discuss what may be going on with their classmates. Ask them about their behavior while in school as well. Once you suspect your child is the victim of bullying, it is time to discuss it with them.
Bullying is an issue that plagues all schools from elementary school to high school. While some are affected more than others, it still persists. The impact bullying can have on your child and their mental health can often be long-term if it isn’t taken care of promptly. If your child has been the victim of bullying, and you notice their mental health may be suffering as well, contact Lifeworks Counseling Center for help.