In 2016, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that during the 2014-2015 school year, one out of every five students between the ages of 12 and 18 reported being bullied at school. The type of bullying varied from insults to threats of harm or property destruction.
As your child heads back to school this year, make sure you know the signs of bullying.
What Is Bullying?
The general definition of bullying is repetitive, unwanted, aggressive behavior involving a real or perceived imbalance of power between two or more people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are three main types of bullying.*
Bullies target a person’s body or possessions through violent actions such as:
- Rude hand gestures
This kind of assault includes:
- Inappropriate sexual comments
- Threatening to cause the victim harm
Also referred to as relational bullying, these attacks typically involve:
- Hurting someone’s reputation or relationships
- Leaving the victim out of activities on purpose
- Telling other children to avoid the victim
- Spreading rumors
- Embarrassing the victim in public
Verbal and social bullying can also take the form of online aggression. Cyberbullying usually consists of bullies using the internet or cellphones to attack the victim with threatening, embarrassing or insulting messages or photos.
Common Signs of Bullying
Recognizing that your child might be dealing with bullying at school or online is the first step toward helping them, but sometimes, the signs are so subtle you might not realize something is wrong. These are some of the most common signs that your child is being bullied.
Frequent Excuses to Skip School
It’s not uncommon for children to resist going to school, but recurring excuses to stay home or frequent calls from the school nurse requesting early pickup are signs that something is amiss. Headaches and stomachaches are among the most common physical manifestations of stress and anxiety associated with bullying.
If your child regularly complains about these symptoms, have an open conversation with them about their feelings. Ask open-ended questions to prompt them to speak their mind rather than answer with a simple “yes” or “no.”
Changes in Friendships
A sudden, unexplained loss or change in your child’s friend group could also indicate bullying. Parents typically aren’t privy to what goes on at school, so connecting with other parents is a useful way to notice when a child is left out of parties, events or other group activities.
Torn Clothing or Physical Marks
Unexplained torn, ruined or stolen clothing and belongings, physical scrapes or bruises are warning signs of playground bullying. Children may hide the damage and injuries or claim it was an accident rather than “tattle” on their peer.
Asking open-ended questions to start a conversation can help identify the problem. If they remain reluctant to answer questions, pay close attention to their body language as it may give up more information than their words.
Changes in Eating Habits
Skipping meals or binge eating could be signs of bullying as well. Children may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch, whether a bully extorted it from them or their anxiety prevented them from eating. They may also use eating as a coping mechanism for the stress they’re experiencing due to bullying. Body shaming by peers may also lead some children to adopt unhealthy habits or develop eating disorders.
Change in Behavior or Attitude
If your child was once an outgoing social butterfly but has recently retreated into themselves by avoiding social situations, they might be the victim of bullying. Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves or having feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem are additional red flags.
These problems should not be ignored. Talk to your child about their feelings and let them know that no matter what, you are there to help them. There are resources out there for parents who may need extra assistance to help their child.
Effects of Bullying
Children who are bullied are more likely to experience:
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Loss of interest in activities
- Decreased academic achievement
- Lack of school participation
How to Prevent Bullying
Parents and concerned adults can help prevent bullying by:
- Helping kids understand that bullying is unacceptable
- Making sure children know how they can get help
- Keeping communication open by checking in often and listening to their concerns
- Encouraging children to do what they love to boost confidence, make friends and protect themselves from bullying behavior
- Modeling how to treat others with kindness and respect
- Urging them to help others who are bullied
Children may not always recognize bullying, but these tips can help protect them and teach them how to handle these situations.
Pediatric Care in Texas
As your child heads back to school, make sure you send them off confident, happy and healthy! The board-certified physicians at St. Hope Foundation are ready to meet the health care needs of children of all ages with pediatric services like:
- Well-child visits
- Care of illnesses
- Care and treatment of minor injuries
- Vaccinations and immunizations
- Preventative health care
- And more
Schedule your child’s next appointment by calling 713.778.1300 today or contact us online to learn more about our services!