Schools around the country are opening their doors as a new school year begins. While excitement and a bit of anxiety are typical emotions for children as they find out their new classes and teachers, there are a group of students who have tremendous anxiety about going back to school….those children who have been victims of bullying.
It depends which study you read but somewhere between 10-29% of students report having been bullied. This represents around 13 million kids. Some studies also show that somewhere around 6-10% of school aged children may be chronic victims of bullying. No matter the number or statistic, bullying is an ongoing problem among school aged children and may have long last effects on both the child who has bullied as well as for the child who was bullied.
Bullying by definition is “unwanted aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves either a real or perceived power imbalance”. Bullying behaviors are also typically repetitive. Boys are more likely to be bullies and may bully boys or girls while girls tend to bully other girls more often.
There are different types of bullying. It may be physical (not as common), verbal, exclusionary, or cyberbullying. All of these types of bully behaviors cause psychological and/or physical distress for the victims. Victims of bullying are more likely to miss school and will have absences for “unknown” reasons where they may just report “not feeling well”. These children may often have frequent headaches and stomach aches without any physical findings. I find that in many cases of bullying a child has been “well all summer” and the physical distress returns once school resumes. Victims of bullying also report difficulty in school with focus and concentration as well as depression and isolation.
The majority of bullying takes place at school, especially at times when there may be less supervision by teachers…during recess, lunch time, bathroom breaks, and on playgrounds. Unfortunately with the advent of cyberbullying and the use of cell phones, tablets and computers to send mean texts or emails more and more bullying may be occurring outside of school.
Just as teachers need to be aware of bullying at school, parents need to know what their children are doing online. Now is another good time to discuss or re-visit the issue of online bullying and review your own family rules for posting or texting, reminding your child that anything they post may be seen by anyone. Don’t post or send anything to anyone that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others. It just takes one person forwarding a message for it to become “viral” and it will remain in that “mysterious cloud” forever!
Prevention of bullying requires that students, teachers, administrators and parents all work together. Encourage your child to report any bullying behavior or concerns that they have and to get the school year off to a good start.
One last statistic: parents who are involved with their children (including their online lives) and have clear and concise rules are less likely to have children who are either those who bully or are victims of bullying.