Before the Internet, marginalized kids could get a break by going home, but now shaming and exclusion can follow them anywhere. What can parents and teachers do? Step one is getting educated. Keep reading to learn more about the red flags of being bullied, some of the effects on children and what you can do to prevent and stop bullying, both in person and online.
Signs Something Is Wrong
Often a bullied kid won’t tell adults that something’s going on, which means you can’t rely on your children to clue you in that there’s a problem. Instead, the best way to help is to know the typical warning signs and stay alert for them. If a child you know is exhibiting the following behaviors, take it as a cry for help. This means, at the very least, you need to investigate further.
Emotional outbursts and/or major mood swings
Depressed or anxious behavior
Loss of interest in eating
Abnormal sleep patterns, either losing sleep or sleeping all the time
Not wanting to go to school
Physical bumps, scratches, bruises, etc., without explanation
Coming home hungry
Why Bullying Is a Big Deal
From name-calling to cyberbullying to physical violence, bullying represents a more serious situation than simple teasing or play. Not only is it more extreme, but also it has significant impacts on kids. In the short-term, this could mean anxiety, bedwetting, stomachaches and/or sleep issues. Bullied kids will often have poor school performance or attendance, and in some cases even suicidal thoughts. Long-term, the consequences can manifest throughout life as continuing anxiety, panic attacks, depression, poor social relationships and/or addictive behavior such as smoking. In the formative childhood and adolescent years, receiving shaming and violent messages from your peers can be incredibly destructive.
How You Can Help
Given that bullying can do so much damage, parents, teachers and caregivers are right to take it seriously. That said, you don’t want to overreact and unintentionally make a bad situation worse. When you suspect or find out something is amiss, don’t lose your cool. Children watch adults to understand appropriate reactions. Here are some actionable tips that can help you navigate this hard and painful circumstance:
Set good technology boundaries: Just like you wouldn’t put your toddler on a crowded street solo, so you shouldn’t send your school-aged kids into the minefield of the Internet alone. Cyberbullying thrives when nobody else knows about it. Limit your child’s unsupervised access to technology. Have a family computer and keep it in a public place where the whole household can see it. Have accounts on any platforms that your kids use. Monitor text messages.
Talk to your kids to prepare them: Coach your child through various situations and what he or she can do in response. Are there ways to avoid bullying? Scripts you can teach? Role-play together about what to do when an episode comes up and empower your child.
Listen carefully to any report of bullying: When a kid starts to tell you about a bullying situation, make sure you give your full attention to listening. This communicates your care and provides security to your hurting child. It’s also important that you take your child’s side, without any blame or shame.
Report incidents: Should your child be experiencing bullying at school or in any community group, let the authorities of that organization know. The best way to counteract bullying is by everyone working together.
For more information about protecting and helping kids who are targeted by bullies, take a look at the attached resource. It further details signs, symptoms and solutions for bullying behavior, in a concise and visually friendly format. The more you know about bullying, the better equipped you are to do something about it.
Author bio: Kids Car Donations is a national organization that accepts vehicle donations to better the lives of children. The organization partners with a number of well-known nonprofits serving children and teens who are confronted with physical, mental and emotional challenges to provide the care they need.