But bullying doesn’t just affect the child being bullied; children who bully are at a higher risk of engaging in violent and self-destructive behavior through adolescence and into adulthood. They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, start sexual activity earlier, be convicted of criminal activity, and be abusive toward partners and children as adults.
Bullying can be verbal, such as name-calling and threats; social, meant to hurt the victim’s reputation or relationships, such as spreading rumors or public embarrassment; or physical, by hurting the victim’s body or damaging his or her possessions. Bullying is aggressive behavior that is repetitive and involves a real or perceived power imbalance, such as popularity or physical strength. Though any child can be a victim of bullying, it can occur due to a disability or a negative perception of a child’s sexual orientation, religion, race, or ethnicity. Bullying has recently become more pervasive and difficult for victims to escape through the emergence of cyberbullying, which takes place electronically and follows adolescents home.
Sadly, bullying can be experienced in adulthood as well as adolescence. Similar behaviors can be found in the workplace and in the home and can escalate into hazing, harassment, intimate partner violence, or stalking. These behaviors require different prevention and responses and are often subject to federal and state laws, which do not apply to youth bullying.
Many children who are bullied do not tell an adult for fear of rejection or retaliation by the bully or their peers, fear of being seen as weak or being judged, or because they have feelings of social isolation and humiliation. Signs that your child may be a victim of bullying include:
• Frequent or unexplained injuries
• Lost or damaged property
• Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
• Faking illness or frequent headaches or stomachaches
• Drop in academic achievement
• Sudden avoidance of friends or social situations
In addition to modeling kindness and respect and keeping up open communication with your child, help him or her to understand what bullying looks like and how to react when it happens. Consider discussing these strategies to help keep your children happy and safe:
• Encourage children to stay near adults or in a group of friends.
• Encourage children to report bullying to a trusted adult.
• Discuss how to safely stand up to bullies by using humor, clearly and confidently saying “Stop,” and walking away from the situation if these strategies do not work.
• Encourage children to get help or show kindness when they see another child being bullied.
• Report to police or school authorities if bullying has escalated and is endangering your child.
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