Concerned about bullying as a new school year starts?
Prisma Health Children's Hospital-Midlands Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Robin Welsh, M.D., has tips for parents and children.
A bully can turn what should be an exciting new school year into a nightmare. If your child is the target of a bully, there are ways to stop the bullying or lessen the impact.
What is bullying?
There are many forms of bullying. Bullying is intentional tormenting through physical, verbal or psychological actions. Bullying is repeated oppression toward a less powerful person by a more powerful person or group.
Direct bullying can be physical or verbal.
Examples of physical bullying are:
Verbal bullying involves:
Indirect bullying can be:
Cyberbullying is using technology to oppress or harm someone through texting, voicemail, email, photos, videos and other technology. Cyberbullying may occur one on one, or information may be distributed to a whole group.
Male bullies tend to be more physically aggressive than girls. Girls tend to operate under the radar and often act in groups, trying to inflict psychological pain on their victim. Girls target a perceived weakness in another girl and may make negative comments about her clothing or appearance.
Bullies tend to prey on children who are less assertive. Bullies may have an emotional perception of weakness in their victims, or they may feel jealous of their victims.
Signs that your child may be a victim of bullying:
Take bullying seriously. Educate your child that bullying exists and explain that bullies often are unhappy or insecure. Lay the groundwork for open discussions about possible bullying, and let your child know that if bullying occurs, you want to know and you will help.
Explain that bullying can happen at school, recess, church, at after-school activities or in the neighborhood. Bullying tends to peak in middle school. If your child recognizes a bullying situation, empower your child to speak up for the victim when possible. If your child is the victim, encourage your child to tell you, a teacher or another trusted adult. Many schools now have bullying prevention programs.
Recognize that some children are afraid to tell on bullies because of possible repercussions. Keep the lines of communication open with your child. Stay very involved in your child's life, and ask questions.
Monitor your child's cellphone, social media and online activities, and make your child aware that you are doing so for their general safety. As a parent, you have that right and responsibility, especially when your child first begins using social media.
Many parents are not aware of the prevalence of bullying and of the capabilities bullies have to use technology and social media to exert power over victims. The consequences of bullying are real. Studies show that victims of bullies often are susceptible to joining gangs for acceptance and protection. Also, it is estimated that many childhood suicides are directly related to bullying.
Bullying is a power play. Talking about bullying with your child is an important step in protecting your child and identifying problems before they progress.
Welsh is a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist who has practiced in the Midlands area for the past 25 years. She has served in the public, private and academic sectors of child and adolescent psychiatry and currently is the division director of Palmetto Health-USC Child Development and Behavioral Health. She also is director of the Prisma Health Children's Hospital-Midlands Pediatric Palliative Care Team.
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