Bullying: It’s Not Childsplay

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 Picture of Lauren Johnson, MSWBy Lauren Johnson, MSW

Bullying doesn’t just happen on the playground. Thanks to technology, it may be happening right under your nose.

Do you currently know a child or adolescent that is being bullied in school? Chances are you or someone close to you has experienced bullying behaviors as the National Center for Education Statistics reports 28% of students in grades 6th through 12th have been victimized. Bullying consists of repeated, unprovoked aggressive behavior where a power imbalance is present and the victim has an inability to stop the incidents from occurring. Bullying may consist of physical aggression, threats, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and social isolation. As children and teenagers have more access to social media, cyberbullying has become more prevalent and can be just as damaging for a victim. Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day and can be more overwhelming for the victim as there is a larger audience. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 9% of students in grades 6th through 12th have been victims of cyberbullying.

What are the effects of bullying on the victim?

  • Individuals may show a decrease in school attendance
  • Academic achievement may decline
  • Individuals may demonstrate symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness can become overwhelming
  • Higher risk for suicidal ideation

How can I help someone at risk?

  • Encourage children or adolescents to talk to a trusted adult
  • Avoid blaming or judgmental language
  • Reward ally behavior such as compassion for others, not laughing at other kids and reporting bullying behavior when it is disclosed or witnessed
  • Help them develop a plan of action, which may include firmly telling the bully to stop, walking away and telling an adult
  • Notify school staff immediately so that they are aware of the situation and can respond
  • Encourage victims to seek counseling

Parents can help decrease the risk for cyberbullying by modeling kind behavior online, telling your children to keep all passwords safe, encouraging them to discuss their online activity with you or a trusted adult and reward ally behavior such as reporting cyberbullying when it is witnessed online or disclosed by a friend. For further information on bullying visit www.stopbullying.gov. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).