According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, bullying is “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”
Verbal bullying includes teasing, threatening and name calling. Physical bullying is manifested in hitting, spitting and kicking. Social bullying occurs by excluding someone, by spreading rumors and by purposefully embarrassing another. Cyberbullying is bullying that occurs online or via cell phones or other forms of technology.
Tips for Children:
• Look the bullies in the eye and in a calm voice and without showing emotion tell them to stop. While it is normal to feel angry or sad when being bullied, do not let the bully see those emotions. Share those feelings with a trusted adult at a later time.
• Laughing it off can be effective. Appearing as if you are not affected minimizes their power.
• Walk away.
• Stay with others. Being near adults lessens the chances of being bullied. If possible, go to the bathroom, walk the halls and eat lunch with others.
What Can Parents Do?
• Observe your child for signs of being bullied. You may notice an avoidance of school or social activities, a change in appetite, complaints of stomach aches, signs of depression and anxiety, and physical signs of assault (bruising or ripped clothing). Pay attention to any significant change in behavior.
• Ask open-ended questions to learn about what is going on and to help your child manage situations. Help your child brainstorm to which adults within the school they can go when feeling threatened. Allow for a safe and open conversation where the child does not worry about getting in trouble or does not fear having technology limited as a result for being honest about what is happening.
• Go over scenarios with your child to practice how to ignore the bully, how to tell the bully to stop without demonstrating emotion, how to laugh it off or how to ask for help from a trusted adult.
• Contact the school and ask to meet with the administration if your child is being bullied. Document all cases of bullying in case outside sources need to become involved. Threatening messages should be reported to the police.
• Set boundaries regarding technology. Teach your child about the risks of posting online and emphasize that any text or post can be forwarded or shared. Keep the family computer in a public space where it is easily monitored. Monitor texts and social media usage. Insisting on taking phones overnight can help eliminate inappropriate exchanges at night.
Children and teens have a right to feel safe at home and at school. Encourage your child to help others who are bullied by demonstrating kindness and/or getting help. Bullying can cause depression and anxiety. If your child is having a difficult time as a result of bullying, consider seeking support from a mental health professional.
Graziella Simonetti is a parent educator for EAC Network’s Long Island Parenting Institute and works as an early childhood social worker for the New York City Department of Education. She holds an advanced certificate in parent education from Adelphi University and is a NYSPEP credentialed parenting educator. Simonetti is a former kindergarten teacher.