The start of a new school year is often cause for great excitement and eager anticipation for students and parents alike. But if your child ends up being the victim of bullying at school, that excitement can quickly give way to anxiety, depression, changes in sleep and dietary patterns, health issues, absenteeism, and a decline in academic performance, among other effects.
There are certain characteristics that distinguish bullying from the routine conflicts that can arise between school-age kids. Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior toward another child that:
Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social (affecting relationships). It can be as direct as teasing, physical contact (e.g., hitting, pulling hair), or destruction of another’s property, or as subtle as purposely excluding the victim from group activities, spreading rumors, or manipulation. Often, bullying occurs in areas and at times where and when adult supervision is lax or absent, but otherwise, there’s no consistent pattern – it can happen during the school day or after school hours, in school, on the playground, on the bus, at the bus stop, or even online.
While there are no hard and fast indicators that determine who becomes a bully and who becomes a victim, research has shown that there are certain characteristics that may predispose a child to one or the other.
Those who are targets of bullying may be seen as:
By contrast, children who bully others may:
Bullying can be a terrifying experience for students, and it can have lasting negative effects for all involved. The immediate effects of bullying can include depression, anxiety, loneliness, social withdrawal, poor academic performance, diminished self-esteem, and mental and physical health issues, among others. These issues can persist in adulthood and may give rise to problems with alcohol or drug abuse, chronic depression, behavioral disorders, violence, and even suicide.
Despite the seriousness of bullying, however, not all children who are victims ask for help. They may fear retribution from the bully, or backlash from their peers for tattling. Alternatively, they may feel they need to handle the situation themselves in order to regain a sense of control and their self-respect, or they may be so humiliated by the experience that they don’t want to appear vulnerable to yet another person, or risk being judged as weak.
So how is a parent or educator to know if a child is a victim of bullying – or the one doing the bullying? It is important to take note of certain changes and tendencies in the students.
Some warning signs that a child may be a victim of bullying include:
Indications that a child may be bullying another student may include:
CDPHP® is partnering with the Albany City School District, the Albany Police Department, and the Albany Police Athletic League (PAL) to raise awareness of bullying, its effects, and its prevention. As part of that effort, the group is launching a poster contest for fourth and fifth graders in the school district to explore strategies for combating bullying and promoting safety, mutual respect, and dignity for all in our schools.
Stay tuned to The Daily Dose blog for additional information on bullying, including how to talk with your student or child about it, and how best to respond if you witness such an incident.