Unfortunately, bullying has been around for a very long time. Years ago, we just chalked it up to kids being kids… some are bullies, some are bullied. With the advent of social media, there seems to be more awareness about bullying. Even so, would you know if your child was being bullied?
October is National Bully Prevention month. Bullying doesn’t only happen at school. Computers and smartphones have now made it possible for cyberbullying to occur. How often have we read about or heard stories of kids who were bullied on social media and then ended up committing suicide? The old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me” isn’t really true. Especially when it comes to bullies attacking someone in a setting, like social media, that has an even greater reach.
Before you can figure out what to do about bullying, you need to know the signs that your child is being bullied
You may be thinking that your child would tell you if there was a problem. Just like the “sticks and stones” saying, this is also not true. One of the saddest reasons children don’t report bullying is that they feel adults rarely intervene when they see a bullying situation happening. They also fear retaliation and being labeled a “rat.” Finally, a child may not report being victims of bullies because they feel ashamed, afraid, and powerless. In time, he or she may believe the rejection from others is warranted and deserved.
Regardless of the reason, there are certain signs you can look for to know if your child is being bullied. StopBullying.gov has a good list and there are a number of other online resources that will be shared toward the end of this post. Here is their list (can also be found at https://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/)
“Signs a Child is Being Bullied from Stopbullying.gov
Look for changes in the child. However, be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs. Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide”
What you can do to help a child who is being bullied
As a parent or guardian, you play a pivotal role in responding to bullying:
- Learn what bullying is and is not and how to recognize the warning signs– Your child could be bullied, bullying others or witnessing the bullying. Because many children won’t ask for help, it’s important to know the signs of bullying. If your child is at immediate risk of harming self or others, get help right away. Here is a list of contacts in the Asheville area from Hope Network > http://www.hopenetworkcounseling.com/about/contact/emergency-contacts/
- Learn the difference between regular bullying and cyberbullying. Talk with your children about cyberbullying and make sure you know what they are doing online. There are a number of smartphone apps that cloak the real use of the app. Read more in this Huffington Post article >> http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-12-apps-that-every-parent-of-a-teen-should-know-about_us_56c34e49e4b0c3c55052a6ba
- Keep the lines of communication open to talk to your child about bullying. It will make it easier for them to tell you when something happens. Read more on this > https://www.stopbullying.gov/prevention/talking-about-it/index.html
- If you determine that bullying is happening, work with your school officials to address the situation. You can find details of NC’s anti-bullying laws here > https://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/north-carolina.htmland here > http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2011/Bills/Senate/PDF/S707v6.pdf
More Resources on Bully Prevention
National Crime Prevent Council – What Parents Can Do > http://www.ncpc.org/topics/bullying/what-parents-can-do
Stomp Out Bullying – What To Do If Your Child is Being Bullied and Resources > http://www.stompoutbullying.org/index.php/information-and-resources/parents-page/what-do-if-your-child-being-bullied-and-resources/
Love Our Children USA – What Parents Can Do to Stop Bullies > http://www.loveourchildrenusa.org/howparentscanstopbullies.php
Buncombe County Schools > https://buncombeschools.org/search/default.aspx?q=bullying&type=0,92447-350,92447-117%7C-1,92531-124
Character Matters NC > http://charactermattersnc.com/anti-bullying/