Bullying has become a hot topic in the media and schools recently as bullies find new ways to target and intimidate their victims. The consequences of their actions have been felt in communities across the country. The rise of social media and children’s access to the internet and mobile technology have led to new and more sophisticated ways for bullies to reach their victims. No longer is bullying confined to face-to-face encounters in the school yard, whispers and rumors, and notes passed between students in the classroom or the cafeteria. Victims of bullying cannot retreat to the safety of their homes at the end of the day anymore. Cell phones and social media websites make it easier for bullies to contact and publicly intimidate their victims at any time.
Despite the growing attention bullying has gotten recently, many children who are the victims of bullying remain reluctant to discuss it with their parents. In light of messages they receive from the media and other sources, these children may either be embarrassed or think that there is nothing their parents can do to stop it. In some cases, these children may even think that their parents would not understand and simply tell them that bullying is a natural part of growing up. However, it is important for parents and other adults to recognize the signs of bullying and respond in a supportive way.
The Highmark Foundation has many resources for parents and suggests parents look for some or all of the following signs of bullying:
- Your child comes home with damaged or missing pieces of clothing, books or other belongings.
- Your child has unexplained bruises, cuts or scratches.
- Your child seems afraid of going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus or taking part in organized activities with peers.
- Your child appears sad, moody, teary or depressed when he or she comes home.
- Your child frequently appears anxious and/or suffers from low self-esteem.
If your child exhibits some or all of these signs of bullying, you can show your support by:
- Gathering information about the bullying.
- Contacting your child's teacher and/or principal. Ask the teacher to talk to other adults who interact with your child at school to see if they have observed students bullying your child.
- Taking quick action. There is nothing worse than doing nothing, and bullying can have serious effects.
- Keeping a written record of all bullying incidents that your child reports to you. Record the names of the children involved, where and when the bullying occurred, and what happened.
- Asking to speak with your child's guidance counselor or other school-based mental health professional.
In addition to your child’s school, many other resources exist to help parents, teachers, administrators, and others support children who are bullies or the victims of bullying. These include StopBullying.gov, a collaborative effort between the federal Health and Human Services, Education, and Justice Departments, as well as the National Education Association’s (NEA) Bully Free: It’s Starts with Me campaign. The Center for Safe Schools also has resources and trainings available for individuals who want to help students who have been bullied and prevent others from becoming bullies.
Taking a stand against bullying and supporting children who have been bullied is the best way to prevent future tragedies. No child should have to endure the pain of being bullied, and no child should be without the support necessary to prevent him or her from becoming a bully. Knowing the warning signs and acting in the best interest of your child are important first steps toward safer, healthier schools for our children.
Bullying Prevention Resources:
Common Views and Myths about Bullying
Record Keeping and Bullying
Steps to Take if Your Child is Being Bullied at School
Talking with Your Child About Bullying
Student Action Plan Against Bullying
Is Your Child Being Bullied in Cyberspace?
What if Your Child IS the Bully?
Dear Colleague Letter from U.S. Office of Civil Rights
Notifying School Administrators of Harassment Concerns
Notifying the School about a Bullying Incident
The IEP and Bullying
Telling Classmates about Your Child's Disability May Foster Acceptance
Parents' Role in Bullying and Intervention
The changing face of bullying and Tips for dealing with today's bullies
Bully Free: It Starts With Me