Probably the only thing more painful then being picked on as a kid is if you’re now watching it happen to your child. Since parents, teachers, and other adults don't always see it, they may not understand how extreme bullying can get. And with the advent of the Internet, bullies have found a whole new way to intimidate their targets.
One of the most painful aspects of bullying is that it is relentless. Your teen might deal just fine with a single incident, though when it goes on and on, bullying can put him or her in a state of constant fear and emotional distress.
Bullies pick on the people they think don't fit in, maybe because of how they look or how they act, their race, religion, or sexual preference, or perhaps they are shy or just different.
If you suspect your teenager or student is a target, intervention is key. Sadly, there have been too many cases of children who have internalized their persistent taunting and have taken matters into their on hands. Some have gone as far as to commit suicide, while in rare cases others have fought back with violence because they were so beaten down by the harassment.
As much as some teens may want to deal with their taunters on their own, you should get involved. While he or she may not welcome your involvement, it’s necessary.
Resist the urge to contact the parents of the student who is bullying your teen. This knee jerk response may make matters worse.
You should start by getting in touch with a school guidance counselor or the principal. It’s a school’s responsibility to ensure that students have a safe learning environment. School officials should contact the parents of the teen or teens who are doing the bullying.
Fortunately, most educators take their responsibilities to stop bullying very seriously. Several states have passed anti‐bullying laws and require public schools to have an anti‐bullying program in place. Ask for a copy of your school's policy, or check the student handbook to see whether your school has policies that will help resolve the problem.
What is bullying?
Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional and usually involves an imbalance of power or strength. A child who is being bullied typically has a hard time defending him or herself. Usually, bullying is repeated over time. It can take many forms, such as hitting or punching; teasing or name‐calling; intimidation through gestures or social exclusion; as well as sending insulting instant or text messages, e‐mails, or posting derogatory comments to social websites such at Facebook or MySpace.
Possible signs your teen is being bullied:
- Your teen is depressed, lonely, or anxious.
- He or she exhibits low self‐esteem.
- Your child has lost interest in schoolwork, or his or her grades have dropped.
- He or she is avoiding riding the bus.
- Your teen frequently complains about headaches, stomachaches or something else.
- Your child is having trouble sleeping.
What you can do to help:
Focus on your teen’s talents or positive qualities. If they aren’t already involved in music, art, sports, or another activity, suggest they get involved. Doing so may help your child be more confident among his or her peers.
Encourage your teenager to make contact with friendly classmates. Sometimes just connecting with one other person will help build the confidence they need. They may even want to seek out other teens that are being bullied. Often there is strength in numbers.
Emphasize that they need to let you, a teacher or another adult know if they are feeling threatened by a bully.
Make sure your teen has a safe and loving home environment and always maintain open lines of communication with him or her.
National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, established after the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, provides valuable information about youth violence prevention. http://www.safeyouth.org/scripts/topics/bullying.asp
The National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus provides health information and gives links to reliable Internet resources. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/medlineplus.html
The National Crime Prevention Council, established to manage the National Citizens’ Crime Prevention Campaign and McGruff the Crime Dog and to administer the Crime Pevention Coalition of America, offers excellent information on cyberbullying. http://www.ncpc.org/topics/cyberbullying