There are 160,000 children who miss school every day out of fear of bullies. Bullying statistics of 2010 report an increase in cyberbullying activities (http://www.bullyingstatistics.org). Only six states do not have laws against bullying (District of Columbia, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, North and South Dakota).
Some people believe that bullying needs to be addressed, but should be in the form of local jurisdiction. State and Federal laws are too broad and do not address local problems.
A pioneer in the bullying prevention, Dr. Dan Olweus defines bullying as,
Bullying is when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself.
Signs and Symptoms of a Bullied Child
> Your child has injuries that he/she cannot explain
> Your child comes home with damaged clothing or other belongings.
> Your child loses possessions – books, clothes, electronics – without a plausible explanation.
> Your child feels sick and does not want to go to school
> Self mutilation – cutting, burning, lack of appetite.
> Decides not to participate in after school, or weekend activities.
A bullied child becomes depressed and withdrawn. Bullying affects a child’s self-esteem, and many children become self-deprecating: “I’m so dumb.” “I’m ugly. Look at this stupid face.”
Children Who Are At Risk of Victimization by Bullies
++ Children who have difficulty making friends are vulnerable to bullies.
++ Children who do not conform to gender norms.
++ Children who do not meet social norms.
++ Children who suffer from anxiety and depression are frequent targets.
++ Children with specific learning disorders: autism, hyperactivity, ADD or ADHD
++ Children with physical disabilities are targets.
Child Defense Against Bullies
There are techniques that parents can teach their children to help them avoid bullying. Tell your child to do the following:
1. Try to stay away from those who do not like them.
2. At school, advise your child to play close to where the adult supervisor is on playground recess duty.
3. Make arrangements for your child to walk to school with an older brother, sister, or trusted neighbor.
4. If taking the bus, tell your child to sit close to the driver.
Modeling bully behavior and role playing with your child helps him/her face a bully.
When walking alone, demonstrate how to walk with confidence: head up, shoulders back, long and purposeful strides. Demonstrate how it looks and have your child practice. Give encouragement to your child as he/she practices. “Great job!” “Look straight ahead. Now you have it!” This scenario can take place at school, as well as walking to and from school.
Role play different scenarios with your child. Ask your child what comments hurt his/her feelings. This is noteworthy because different comments hurt more for some children than other children. Role play the bully and say mean things that affect your child – Encourage and coach your child to ignore the comment and move out of the way of the bully (-ies).
Escalate the bullying behavior. As your child passes by, poke him or her in the back. Demonstrate to your child how to turn around, squarely face the bully and tell him/her to “stop” in a clear and strong voice. This is probably one of the hardest scenarios for your child.
Some bullies feel threatened when thwarted and get meaner. Tell your child to yell – “Stop!” to the bully – to bring attention to the situation. Coach your child to turn and walk away to find an adult to help.
It is essential for the school to have a “bully policy” in place with clearcut consequences for the bully.
Sometimes, it is necessary for parent intervention. If your child is a victim of bullying, you need to speak up to the proper school authorities. If your child’s school does not have a policy, contact other parents. If your child is a victim of bullying, other children are victims. Recognition of the problem and the knowledge that you are not alone in your concerns help change policies.