ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – The beginning of a new school year can be an exciting time in a child’s life; making friends, having new teachers, and signing up for after-school activities. But a new school year can also be a terrifying experience for a child when they are bullied by other children, which continues to be an increasing problem in schools across the country.
“The biggest risk is that kids become severely depressed and that it affects their confidence if they’re being bullied, and in some really unfortunate circumstances, it’s led to suicide,” says Dr. Tara Mitchell, a licensed clinical psychologist for Carilion Children’s.
Bullying is simply defined as someone picking on someone else. Different types of bullying can include physical (pushing, punching, kicking), verbal (insulting, criticizing) and social (spreading rumors, excluding someone from a conversation).
According to StoptheBullying.gov, in one large study, approximately 49% of children in grades 4-12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the past month. Experts say there is an increasing trend in bullying, with the most prevalent form being cyberbullying. Kids are more comfortable with bullying someone through their electronic devices because of the lack of face-to-face contact. With mobile apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, hurtful exchanges can occur outside of school and can be a challenge to school officials when handling instances of school bullying.
The effects of bullying can be detrimental to a child. They can have harder time focusing on their academics, making new friends, and even stop eating because of fear or anxiety. Ultimately, they may want to avoid school in general. Certain groups like introverted and special needs children tend to be a high target for school bullies because they may not know how to stand up for themselves.
When it comes to identifying a school bully, experts say it’s harder than you think.
“There use to be a myth out there that a person is bullying because they have some of their own insecurities or because they come from a challenging environment, but that is not always the case,” says Dr. Mitchell.
There are many factors on why children become bullies. Some kids may just always want to win, while others may have a hard time tolerating different people. Bullies can even come from good homes and are simply looking for a way to stand out from others. To understand their behavior, experts look at what’s being modeled in the home to them by the parents and what things they are exposed to on television or online content.
Dr. Mitchell gives tips for both kids and parents on how to deal with school bullying:
Tips for Kids
- Use your words. Ask them to stop.
- Have self-confidence and be assertive. Bullies tend to target those that are quiet.
- Tell an adult. You have a right to be safe at school.
- Stand up for others. Be a role model for your peers.
- Stay with friends. Bullies tend to target kids that are by themselves.
Tips for Parents
- Pay attention to your child. Many children act differently when bullied. They may not want to go to school, have low self-confidence, have a hard time eating or sleeping, have stress or anxiety.
- Take note of missing items. If a child is being bullied, they may take things from the house to school that the bully may want (i.e. food, video games, money). If a child is the bully, they may bring things home from school and brag about what they made someone do.
- Be involved. Listen to your child. Be sure to take time everyday to talk with them about their school. Instead of asking, “how was you’re day?” ask them specific questions like “what was the best/hardest part of your day?”
- Schedule playdates. Make sure your child maintains healthy friendships with other kids at school.
- Get Help. If you notice your child is being bullied or is bullying others, talk with a school counselor or a pediatrician.
For additional resources on how to handle school bullying, visit Stopbullying.gov.