When children in school pick on someone in a serious way, it might be bullying. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people. To be considered bullying, the behavior needs to be repeated or be able to be repeated over time. It also must be aggressive and have an imbalance of power. This means that the “bully” might be physically stronger, be more popular, or might have embarrassing information about the other child. Bullying can be things like:
Bullying is different from conflict because children in conflict usually self-monitor their behavior. This means that children are usually very good at noticing social cues that let them know when they cross a line with negative behavior, and when to stop. But bullies don’t stop. There is uneven power. It might be social or physical power, but the bully knows how to use the situation to get what they want.
What are common types of bullying?
Physical bullying can start with children as young as 4 or 5 years old but is not considered bullying until the child realizes their actions are causing pain. To be considered bullying there has to be a belief that someone is trying to intentionally hurt someone else.
Emotional bullying makes it hard for a student to learn, grow, and succeed. It also hurts by damaging or threatening to damage their relationships with friends or other children their age. It can also make them feel like they don’t belong. Emotional bullying damages feelings of social acceptance. It can be things like:
▪ Ignoring or alienating someone or leaving them out of groups
▪ Talking other children into not letting someone into a group
▪ Damaging someone’s reputation
▪ Publicly making fun of how someone acts or looks
▪ Doing things that make someone feel anxious or worried about what might happen next
Emotional abuse tends to peak during middle school years. This is when children start to experiment with social boundaries and learn about the power of including and excluding others.
The behavior is considered bullying when the reason for it is to hurt somebody else and to assert social control.
Studies show that boys are more likely to post mean photos or videos. Girls are more likely to spread rumors or post mean or hurtful comments.
Cyberbullying is dangerous because it can be done anonymously. The bully doesn’t have to “face” the person they are bullying. Children don’t always realize that once something is posted, there is a record of it forever. People can access it over and over again which can cause an ongoing cycle for the victim.
The best thing you can do is to be able to recognize bullying when it is happening to a child. A basic rule is to let children know that if a behavior hurts them, either emotionally or physically, it is bullying.
If a child does not want to talk about being bullied or does not have a way to communicate it well, you need to watch for changes in your child’s behavior. Signs that your child might be a victim of bullying are things like:
There are several things that parents can do to help if their child is a victim of bullying.
You need to:
▪ Be Supportive
▪ Be patient
▪ Look at different ways to help stop the bullying
Parents often react in 1 of 3 ways when they hear their child is being bullied:
Self-Advocacy means helping your child learn the skills they need to speak up for themselves and communicate what they need adults to do to help. As a parent, make sure you let your child know that you are there for them. Say things to them like, ‘you are not alone’, ‘no one deserves to be bullied’, ‘Let’s work together to find a solution’ and ‘the bullying is not your fault’.
Let your child know that all students have a right to be safe at school, expect adults to keep them safe and speak up when they are being bullied. Your child should know that if 1 adult can’t help, don’t give up! Find another adult who will listen and help.
Materials provide by Children’s Law Center
For more information, visit their website at www.childrenslawky.org