Identifying the Face of Bullying


In times past, bullying consisted of bigger kids picking on the smaller kids. It was a face-to-face interaction with the bully harassing the victim physically or verbally. In the past decade, bullying has morphed into something more sinister and widespread. It’s no longer confined to the playground or the school bus. With the rise of social media, cyberbullying has become a major issue that follows kids and teens home via their mobile devices.

Bullying is the product of an unequal power dynamic—the strong attacking the weak or those who are different. It plays out in a myriad of ways through physical violence, verbal abuse (in person or online), or the control of relationships (spreading rumors, humiliation, and rejection). Often, bullying is a learned behavior that children see at home. Kids can also exhibit bullying behavior because they are lacking attention at home and lash out at others for attention. This can include neglected children, children of divorced parents, or children with parents whose parents abuse drugs or alcohol.

Each day an estimated 160,000 children in the U.S. stay home from school out of fear, according to Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, a Denver child psychologist who is an expert on bullying. This is one of the key signs your child may be bullied.

There are markers of bullying that parents can keep their eye on:

Low Grades

Research shows that victims of continual bullying are less likely to perform well in school. In a 2005 study, UCLA researchers followed a group of middle school students over a three-year period and recognized a direct correlation between excessive bullying and poor academic performance. 

Low Self Esteem

Victims of bullying can experience feelings of anxiousness and fear, making it tough for them to see themselves in a positive light. Bullies thrive on making others feel inadequate and worthless, and they are often successful. A child who lacks confidence often withdraws from others and is rarely happy.

Changes in Appearance or Interests

A sudden and serious change in appearance may indicate a bullying problem is occurring. For example, a girl who is teased for her hair may decide to drastically change it to stop bullying. Also, if a child stops being interested in something they’ve loved without explanation, bullying may be the culprit.

Distress After Using the Computer or Phone

With the rise of technology, cyberbullying can be 24/7. If your child is upset after using social media or reading text messages, your child may be a victim of cyberbullying. Keep your eyes peeled for how your teen’s mood is affected after using electronics. If you feel there is cause for concern, ask to read your child’s text or emails and insist that the computer is only used in common areas of the house. 


Depression and Suicide

Continual sadness can cause severe depression in bullied children. Suicidal thoughts are common in depressed children, and bullying has contributed to many suicides among U.S. teens. Suicidal children might engage in reckless behaviors, injure themselves, or show a sudden interest in death or dying.


Tips to Help Your Child Deal with Bullying

·      Talk to your child about what has happened and allow them space to express their feelings.

·      Help the child find tasks at which they can succeed, cultivate hobbies and interests at which they excel, and spend time doing activities they enjoy. This helps the child build up their self-esteem.

·      Alert school administrators so they can offer protection and keep an eye out for the child at school.

·      Encourage counseling.  A trained professional can provide a safe environment for children and teens to talk and can help lessen the psychological effects of bullying.

·      Monitor email, Internet, and cell-phone use. Tell children not to engage the bully on social media or share secrets/private intimate photos of themselves online.


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