Bullying and What You Can Do About It

Bully: a person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people.

Kids who bully use their power (it could be their physical strength, or popularity or access to embarrassing information) to control or harm other kids. Bullies make threats, spread rumors, attack other kids physically or verbally, or exclude them from a group on purpose.

Mean girls.
Mean girls.

There are four types of bullies, according to the National Centre Against Bullying, in Australia:

Verbal bullying includes name calling, insults, teasing, intimidation, homophobic or racist remarks, or verbal abuse.

Physical bullying includes hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching and pushing or damaging property.

Covert or hidden bullying is often harder to recognize and can be carried out behind the bullied person’s back. It is designed to harm someone’s social reputation and/or cause humiliation. Covert bullying includes:

  • Lying and spreading rumors
  • Negative facial or physical gestures, menacing or contemptuous looks
  • Playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate
  • Mimicking unkindly
  • Encouraging others to socially exclude someone
  • Damaging someone’s social reputation or social acceptance

Cyberbullying can be overt or covert bullying behaviors using digital technologies, including computers and smartphones and software such as social media, instant messaging, texts, and websites. Cyberbullying can happen at any time. It can be in public or in private and sometimes only known to the target and the person bullying. It includes:

  • Abusive or hurtful texts emails or posts, images or videos
  • Deliberately excluding others online
  • Nasty gossip or rumors
  • Imitating others online or using their log-in.

Warning Signs

Recognizing signs that your child is being bullied is an important first step in taking action against bullying. Not all children who are bullied or are bullying others ask for help.

It is important to talk with children who show signs of being bullied or bullying others. These warning signs can also point to other issues or problems, such as depression or substance abuse. Talking to the child can help identify the root of the problem.

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

How to Talk About Bullying

Kids who know what bullying is can better identify it. They can talk about bullying if it happens to them or others. Kids need to know ways to safely stand up to bullying and how to get help.

You can encourage your kids to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied.

Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other kids.

Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.

Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.

And of course, when we model how to treat others with kindness and respect, our kids learn it, too.

More Resources

Virginia Rules:  http://www.virginiarules.com/virginia-rules/bullying

StopBullying.gov:  http://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/

National Centre Against Bullying:  http://www.ncab.org.au/

What Parents Can Do:  http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/bullying.aspx

Get Help Now:  http://www.stopbullying.gov/get-help-now/index.html

For more resources, go to http://www.stopbullying.gov/resources/all

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