Dealing with Children Who Bully
- How can I help my child when she is bullied by another child?
Background: How to Tell If Your Child Is Being Bullied
Children who bully others do so to varying degrees. Children younger than fifth or sixth graders bully in person. Older children begin to use cell phones and the Internet to bully, harass, and intimidate. In mild cases, a bully occasionally ridicules or threatens another child. In extreme cases, a bully systematically and thoroughly humiliates another child. Fortunately, mild cases are more common. Your child will talk to you about being mildly bullied when you use the listening techniques in Chapter Seventeen. If you act quickly, bullying will not become severe.
Severe bullying is different and uglier. The usual way that bullying becomes severe is that the child who is bullied doesn't tell anyone else it's happening for several reasons:
- It's humiliating, and they are too embarrassed to talk about it.
- They feel that no one else will understand or believe them.
- They feel that if anyone tried to help, it would only make the situation worse.
- If it is happening with a cell phone, they are afraid their parents will take away their cell phone.
If you notice certain changes in your child's behavior, you will have to do some detective work to find out about severe bullying. Here are some signs:1
- Your child's school work begins to slide.
- Your child shows much less interest in schoolwork than usual.
- Your child does not want to go to school or starts having frequent stomachaches or headaches on school days.
- If your child walks to school, she changes her usual path to an out-of-the-way route.
- Your child's books, money, or other belongings are missing without explanation.
- Your child begins stealing or requesting extra money for lunch.
- Your child begins to have unexplained injuries or torn clothing.
The first three signs are general signs of distress about something at school, while the last four are specific to being bullied.
Cyberbullying has arisen with the greater use of the Internet by children. One survey found that 16 percent of children between the ages of eleven and nineteen were harassed by text messaging, 7 percent were harassed in Internet chat rooms, and 4 percent were harassed by e-mail.2
The most effective response to this form of harassment is to not respond. E-mail programs have filters that block or automatically delete messages from undesirable senders. It is also possible to trace from which e-mail account the offending message was sent. IM programs allow users to create a list of others from which users may wish to block messages.
It is usually better to have school administrators deal with cyberbullying. It has been recommended that "a provision be added to the school's acceptable use policy reserving the right to discipline students for actions conducted away from school if such actions have an adverse effect on a student or if they adversely affect the safety and well-being of the student while in school."3
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