October is National Bullying Prevention Month and we would like to shed some light on another epidemic that has effected millions of Americans, most commonly, children and young adults. The term itself may not be new, but the forms in which bullying has taken effect have increased in severity over time. It is important that parents and role models are acting and reacting appropriately in order to reduce the reach of this harmful activity.
Bullying is defined as repeated aggressive or unwanted behavior that creates an imbalance of power or strength between parties. Its triggers are often socially related and its effects on the mental health of victims can be long lasting.
Here are the top four forms of bullying as well as some suggestions on how to prevent further occurrences of this behavior.
1. Verbal Bullying
Description: Verbal bullying is one of the most recognizable forms and is demonstrated through cruel words or disrespectful comments. These comments often relate to someone’s physical appearance, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. These remarks tend to make the victim feel isolated and inferior to their bully which can damage their self-worth and confidence.
Signs: The victim will likely withdraw socially and appear moody. Change in appetite is also possible. Often times children may mention that a rude comment was made and ask if that statement is true. If you notice any of these signs it is important that you have a conversation with your child to ensure that the issue is not harmful or severe.
Prevention: First and foremost, parents and role models should always lead by example. We would encourage you to teach children about respecting differences and being kind; but it is important that you are also exercising those behaviors. Another great way to combat bullying is to highlight your child’s strengths and instill confidence and independence in their attitude so that they feel more comfortable in their own skin.
2. Physical Bullying
Description: This form of bullying is seen when the aggression we defined above becomes physical. Victims may experience hitting, tripping, blocking or pushing. At times this can become a more serious altercation where the victim is hit or touched inappropriately.
Signs: Although it seems like physical bullying may be easy to catch, it can be one of the most difficult. Make sure that you are monitoring unexplained cuts and bruises or headaches and stomach aches. If these become common and frequently have no explanation it can be cause for concern.
Prevention: We would suggest that you begin with a more casual conversation to assess this kind of bullying. Maybe start by asking how your child’s day was and then continue by asking if everyone at school is being nice. Establish a line of trust between yourself and your child to ensure that they know they can come to you in an intimidating situation where they are experiencing some form of hurt. If your concerns are heightened after this discussion, there is no harm in contacting their school to investigate the matter further.
3. Relational Bullying
Description: This kind of bullying relies on exclusionary tactics that make the victim feel left out or not good enough to be a part of a certain group. Situations range from not being welcome at the same lunch table, to not being invited to play on a sports team or attend a social gathering. This bullying isolates the victim making them feel inferior to others and extremely lonely.
Signs: The leading signs are introversion and social withdraw as well as isolation and uneasiness.
Prevention: The best way to monitor and prevent this kind of bullying is by keeping tabs on the daily activities of your child. Note whether they are spending time with other people or joining social groups and look for gaps in social interaction and growth. If you recognize a group of people that have a negative impact on your child, suggest some alternative friends or activities for them to explore. And as mentioned in verbal bullying, try to highlight your child’s strengths and improve their confidence.
Description: Last, but certainly not least, we have cyber bullying. The form that has increased in popularity as social media and cell phone use for younger generations has skyrocketed. The verbal and relational bullying that we discussed above has its own life online through channels like email, text and social media posting. The amount of people that hear insults and rumors is exponentially larger due to the reach of social platforms so it can be significantly more damaging to the victim.
Signs: Try to take notice of the amount of time your child is spending on their phone and computer and what their disposition is at that time. Victims will usually demonstrate some form of anxiety or worry while on social media. Also pay mind to how late they are up using their phone and monitor their general mood.
Prevention: Unfortunately, the internet provides bullies the opportunity to mask their identities at times, so it is important to set general rules about online usage that are appropriate to the child’s age. Perhaps set up a monitoring schedule so that you are able to keep tabs on some of your child’s online activity. Make sure that they are informing you when other people are sending rude or cruel messages so that you are able to better protect their general social community. Again, communication and building trust will be very beneficial when combatting this form of bullying.
Bullying may never be completely resolved, but there are definitely ways in which parents and elders can help minimize this activity. If your child has suffered from emotional or physical bullying and would benefit from professional help, please give us a call. We are skilled experts in managing these fragile situations and would be happy to help.