Bullying is no small matter. The traditional schoolyard bully robbing children of lunch money has warped into a horrific scenario, with serious impacts. The Mayo Clinic estimates nearly half of all school-aged children are bullied at some point. Bullying can be detrimental to physiological and psychological functioning, and can lead to suicide.
There are three types of bullying. Some display physical evidence, such as bruises or cuts. Other kinds are psychological such as face-to-face verbal bullying or cyber bullying.
For many parents one question lingers: How do I protect my child from bullies?
1. Identify Signs of Bullying
Know if your child is being bullied. The Mayo Clinic reports a list of symptoms of being bullied which include: fear of going to school, trouble concentrating, stomach pains, headaches, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.
2. Know Your Child’s Surroundings
Children interact with several adults, other than their parents, on a regular basis. Many of those adults see what constitutes a normal day in your child’s life. Give teachers, school staff, bus drivers, and other parents your contact information. If your child is being bullied, or bullying others, those adults can let you know.
Know your child’s friends. Bullying often takes the form of social interactions among friends.
Communicate with your children, ask about their day and listen intently, checking to see if there were any bad parts, suggests StopBullying.gov.
Additionally, talk to your children about bullying. Explain to them what a bully is, and how to stand up for themselves, and for others.
4. Watch for Cyberbullying
Complete strangers can and do bully children where one would expect the children to be safe, within the comforts of their own homes. So can classmates or abusive boyfriends or girlfriends. Install monitoring software on all electronic devices. It allows parents to keep watch over whom their child is talking to. In 2006 a national poll by KidsHealth.org found that one in three teens, and one in six preteens have been victims of cyberbullying.
If your child has been cyberbullied Kids.gov suggests you do the following:
1. Do not answer the bully, and discontinue all forms of contact.
2. Block the individual. Whether it’s an online name, or a phone number, do not allowing them to continue talking to your child.
3. Keep evidence. There are policies and laws against cyber bullying, so check to see what applies in your state.
5. Encourage Them to Do What They Love
Encourage hobbies, passions, artistic expression, charities and causes. This can help children build independence, confidence, and a strong foundation in their own minds, helping to reduce the negative impacts of bullying.
6. Be an Example
Children watch and learn from adults, so as parents or other adult mentors must take to heart the responsibility of setting a good example for the children you’re around. Even bullies can benefit from a strong, positive adult role model.
7. Be Proactive
There are more and more anti-bullying resources and organizations. Many offer programs help educate children on bullying.
Be proactive in your child’s classroom about anti-bullying workshops and activities. Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center, Pacer.org, provides a bully-prevention toolkit, among many other resources on their website.
As more people step forward to share their own experience, more support is generated. Take bullying seriously. Whether your child is a bully, or is being abused by one, take proactive measures to help schools and cyberspace be safer places for children, teens, and even for adults.