Tragic headlines have raised awareness of the devastating effects bullying can have on children, teenagers, and young adults. While bullying has been slowly declining thanks to public awareness campaigns and bullying prevention programs and activities at schools, the problem hasn’t disappeared completely. In fact, in 2013, 22% of students nationwide reported being bullied during the school year.*
Without active prevention programs, bullying can have serious, long-lasting emotional effects on victims of all ages—so it’s important to understand what it’s about:
Power—Bullying is based on a real or perceived imbalance of power between the bully and the victim.
Repetition—Far from being an isolated incident, bullying makes the victim constantly aware that he or she will be bullied again and again.
Clear intent to harm—Bullying can take the form of verbal, physical, and social abuse (e.g., excluding others from activities or spreading rumors). Cyberbullying is the latest and most challenging trend, as the bully uses technology like smart phones, text messages, and social media to spread cruel rumors and taunt the victim.
No parent wants to think about their child being involved in bullying—from either perspective. However, it is important to know the signs in both cases:
Bullying behavior—Is your child hotheaded, aggressive, easily frustrated, verbally or physically abusive, or short-tempered? These traits may make your child more likely to engage in bullying behaviors.
Victim of bullying—The signs vary widely, but they may include a sudden drop in grades or academic performance, making excuses to stay home from school, not wanting to talk about school, loss of appetite, withdrawing from friends and family, and new behavioral problems.
If you suspect your child may be a bully or the victim of a bully, engage in these bullying prevention activities:
Spend more time listening to your child and watching his or her interactions with others. Talk to your child’s teachers, friends, and the friends’ parents about your child’s behavior.
Talk to your child and let him or her know you’re concerned about things they’re doing or saying that might be associated with being a bully or being bullied. The more you learn from your child, the better equipped you’ll be to help.
Monitor your child’s computer and cell phone for signs of cyberbullying or being bullied.
Above all, seek help from a school counselor or other mental health professional if your concerns about a bullying problem are confirmed. Ideally, your school counselor will have a degree similar to an MS in School Counseling, which can provide a helpful background to better counsel bullies and victims. Additionally, school counselors can help develop school policies for dealing with bullies and their victims and help educate the entire school population with bullying prevention programs and activities.
For more information about bullying, watch this insightful Walden On-Demand Webinar, “Words Hurt: Understanding and Coping With the Bully and the Bullied.”
Remember, the longer bullying continues unchecked, the more devastating the damage can be.
Interested in becoming part of the bullying prevention movement? Walden University's online counseling and psychology programs can help launch, advance, or change the direction of your career in this meaningful, rewarding field.
*U.S. Dept. of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015, “Measuring Student Safety: Bullying Rates at School,” on the Internet at www.nces.ed.gov/blogs/nces/post/measuring-student-safety-bullying-rates-at-school.