Several years ago, if a kid was being bullied, society dismissed it as child’s play. This is no longer the case as kids are killing and otherwise harming themselves due to various acts of bullying. There are various forms of bullying: physical, verbal, relational aggression, cyber, sexual and prejudicial.
The most talked about is cyberbullying. This is when kids typically use some form of social media to bully their peers by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. As parents, you can no longer take this term for granted.
Bullying must be talked about and dealt with in a timely manner as it can involve direct physical contact, verbal attacks intended to cause emotional harm, or indirect acts of social aggression intended to embarrass or isolate.
Here are some bullying statistics:
- Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year.
- Approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying.
- 17 percent of American students report being bullied two to three times a month or more within a school semester.
- One in four teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene four percent of the time.
- Over 67 percent of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective.
- 71 percent of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
- 90 percent of fourth through eighth graders report being victims of bullying.
Bullying can be addressed timely if you first stay aware of your child’s behavior, and second, if you make a concerted effort to talk to your kids on a consistent basis. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that communicating with your kids can be challenging at times. However, it is vital that you start the dialogue, stay engaged and aware of their behavior, and don’t wait for your kids to bring up this topic.
Below are some warning signs:
- Your child comes home with torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings. He or she has unexplained cuts, bruises and scratches.
- Your child has few, if any, friends with whom he or she spends time.
- Your child finds or makes up excuses as to why they can’t go to school.
- Your child has lost interest in school work or suddenly begins to do poorly in school.
- Your child appears sad, moody, teary or depressed when he or she comes home.
- Your child has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams and/or experiences a loss of appetite.
- Your child appears anxious and suffers from low self-esteem.
If you’ve noticed any of these behaviors, it is imperative that you take action. Talk to your children and their teachers. Do not overreact, and when speaking with your child be subtle. Communicate in a tone that is inviting and inquisitive.
Ask your child some of the following questions:
- How are things going at school?
- I was at work today and a co-worker indicated that her son was a victim of bullying. Do you have any friends going through that?
- Do you have a certain group of friends you hang around? If so, who are they? Do you guys get along?
- Have you ever experienced bullying? If so, what happened?
- Is bullying going on at your school? If so, what have you heard?
Asking these questions will start the dialogue. However, you must assess their responses and continue to probe. The bottom line is to take some action. If you notice a change in your child’s behavior, do not think they are merely going through a phase. Talk to them and find out what is going on. Be the parent that talks to your child. Be the parent that asks questions…not the parent that finds out after the fact when it could be too late.
Dr. Wendy Johnson has worked in education for years and has a nonprofit organization that works with students and parents.