Have you seen someone be bullied or someone bully another person? How did you react? Sometimes it’s not easy to tell what is bullying and what is playing around especially if it’s between two people who know each other well. But if you take the relationship out of the equation, then you should look for whether or not the bully has power over the victim or uses bullying tactics repetitively.
Bullying presents itself in many different forms from seemingly harmless teasing to more aggressive physical assault. The most important things that any person can do is to know what bullying is and to help those at risk or victims of bullying. In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, here is a brief introduction to bullying and some resources to help you prevent bullying in your area.
Be Informed on Bullying
Adults may see bullying as a form of childhood prankster-hood getting out of hand, or perhaps even initiation into social cliques, but the truth is that bullying can leave serious and permanent emotional and physical scars. This can be especially damaging to children and young adults who are still in the process of developing mentally and emotionally.
According to StopBullying.gov, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ anti-bullying website, there are three main types of bullying: verbal, social, and physical. The characteristics of these types of bullying include things such as
While it may be disturbing to think that any of these things happen in schools, in homes, or in public spaces all over the United States or online, it is best to know what bullying is and to recognize who can be affected by it.
Who Is At Risk for Bullying?
Bullying can happen to anyone, in any social or economic group, across the world, but youth in easily isolated groups can be at a higher risk of being bullied. These groups include LGBTQ youth, youth with disabilities, and youth with any other perceived differences. This doesn’t mean that students in these groups will definitely be bullied, but according to the American Psychological Association (APA), students who are bullied may have a few of the following risk factors:
- Sensitive, quiet, or shy
- Low self-esteem
- Without good friends within or around their own age group
- Physically weaker than their peers
Signs Your Child is Being Bullied
Children who are being bullied may have signs that seem innocuous at first, but when all those signs add up, they can be very concerning. Parents should be concerned and take steps with school counselors, teachers, other involved parents, and police officers (if necessary), if their children have any of these symptoms.
- Injuries that can’t be explained
- Destroyed or lost possessions
- Frequent illnesses such as headaches or stomachache, or even faking illness to avoid school
- Difficulty or changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Loss of friends
- Self-destructive behaviors (running away from home, harming him or herself, or talking about suicide)
While it is important to recognize these groups, to know the signs, and to be prepared to step in when youth at risk present symptoms and speak about being bullied, it is just as important to know what preventative steps can be taken to stop bullying before it starts.
How to Prevent Bullying
Many times, children won’t ask for help, or won’t seem like they’re asking for help with a bullying situation until that situation gets so out of control that the authorities need to be involved, or worse. So the best thing to do about bullying is to know what steps to take to prevent bullying in the first place. That’s not to say that all bullying can be prevented, but having the tools in place gives parents and children a healthy and solid place to start. According to the APA, parents and other adults should:
- Be a role model – Children need to have positive adult role models upon which to base their own behavior and interactions with peers.
- Set firm rules on what is and is not acceptable behavior – Because all children need to know what limits they need to work within.
- Creative a warm and positive environment – Involvement from parents is critical to successful prevention of bullying from children who bully and children who are victims of bullying.
How to Respond to Bullying and Get Help
With all the preparation and preventative steps that can be taken, bullying can still happen. Parents and other adults can prepare themselves to deal with situations dealing with bullying by knowing what they should do right away.
- Stop bullying right away.
- Speak with the victim of bullying to find out what has been happening.
- Encourage children and young adults to speak up about bullying that has happened to them or that they have witnessed.
- Support victims of bullying, but also those who bully. Because bullying won’t stop unless the bully gets help too.
Be proactive, be attentive, and provide resources to the children and young adults in your life. StopBullying.gov provides great information about what bullying is and what adults can do to recognize and prevent it. For children experiencing or seeing bullying around their schools, homes, or other places where they interact with other people, Kids Against Bullying is a great resources to introduce them to. For more information on how the APA has helped to change anti-bullying campaigns in schools in the United States, see articles on their website.
Author: Nicole Acevedo, Teacher Manager at A Grade Ahead