Bullying is an issue that has existed throughout history. It is something that has the capacity to inflict long-lasting psychological and/or physical damage on the person who is being bullied. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 27% of students ages 12-18 have been bullied at school and 9% have experienced cyberbullying. Bullying can be anything from mean words and name calling to the destruction of property and physical violence. Although bullying is a consistent problem among every generation, there are typical warning signs that can help families, teachers, and peers identify who is being bullied and how it may be affecting them.
According to stopbullying.gov:
Signs a child is being bullied:
- Unexplainable injuries- bruises, scratches. Etc.
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness to avoid going to school
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
Signs a child is bullying others:
- Get into physical or verbal fights
- Have friends who bully others
- Are increasingly aggressive
- Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
- Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
- Blame others for their problems
- Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
- Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
Bullying can have negative effects on the one doing the bullying, the person being bullied, and the people observing the bullying. It is important for schools, parents, and peers to be able to identify the warning signs and be willing to help stop or prevent the bullying. The best way to do this is to help cultivate an environment that is kind and accepting to everyone. Students should be educated about what bullying is, why it is bad, and how to stop or report bullying if they see it happen.
Cyberbullying is another form of bullying that can be harder to see or notice if the people being bullied don't speak up. Cyberbullying takes place in digital spaces such as text messaging and social media. Examples of cyberbullying include sharing, posting or sending harmful, false, or cruel content about another person. This can often cause embarrassment and humiliation on behalf of the person being bullied. This type of bullying can be persistent since many kids and teens have access to electronic devices and social media at most times throughout the day. According to stopbullying.gov, 21% of students ages 12-18 have experienced cyberbullying.
Here are some warning signs of cyberbullying according to stopbullying.gov:
- Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting.
- A child exhibits emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device.
- A child hides their screen or device when others are near, and avoids discussion about what they are doing on their device.
- Social media accounts are shut down or new ones appear.
- A child starts to avoid social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past.
- A child becomes withdrawn or depressed or loses interest in people and activities.
The best way to prevent cyberbullying is for parents to be aware of what their child is doing online. This can be challenging since there are so many social media platforms, which means more platforms for potential bullying and harmful content. If you or child is being cyberbullied, make sure to document the bullying through screenshots or other means and report the bullying to the social media platform or the school. Many social media sites and schools have policies and procedures in place for cyberbullying cases and may be able to help put a stop to the bullying.
No matter what type of bullying, it is vital to show kids the importance of kindness and acceptance. It is important to have open communication with kids so that they will feel comfortable discussing bullying or seeking help from someone they trust. Bullying should never be taken lightly, as it can have a lasting effect on kids for the rest of their lives. By being able to identify warning signs and cultivating a positive and accepting environment, we can all help prevent bullying so kids can have the space to be themselves as they learn and grow.
For more information on bullying, visit https://www.stopbullying.gov/