Bullying is a painful part of growing up. Speak to most folks, and they'll be able to tell you of a time they were bullied, witnessed someone get bullied, or even bullied someone themselves.
Unfortunately, it seems that bullying is here to stay. Data culled by DoSomething.org shows that 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year and that 90 percent of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying. In the face of those odds, what can we do to help our child, or support a young person, when he feels like he is getting bullied? Here are some basic facts and strategies for what you can do:
What Is Bullying?
There is no one form of "bullying." Bullying, in general, refers to some form of aggression that is used to assert dominance over someone else, or a group of people. Practically speaking, that can mean physical aggression (anything from a push to a punch or worse), verbal aggression (from simple name-calling to hate-speech), or social aggression (such as exclusion, spreading rumors, or worse).
Bullying can take place in person, through social circles, or even online, where it is called cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying has become much more of a problem thanks to the near-limitless reach of social platforms like Facebook and the relative anonymity of the internet (take, for example, online forums that use aliases).
There are a multitude of pop psychology reasons for why bullying takes places (troubles at home, jealousy, etc.). However, just as there is no single form of bullying, there is also no single reason for it. Most instances are unique and require nuance.
Controversy Around Bullying
Even though many folks believe bullying should be stopped, there are some who think bullying can actually be good for us. The common debate is that bullying "toughens kids up" or teaches them how to fend for themselves. Some have even released studies saying that bullying helps kids learn how to resolve disputes and boost their ability to interact with others. Pro-bullying studies have found their way into publications including Time, The Verge, and others.
How Can You Tell If Your Child Is Being Bullied
Sometimes a bullied child may not tell his parents or other adults that he is being bullied. If you think your child is being bullied, look for some basic signs, such as new bruises or injuries, a sudden change in mood, a reticence to go to school, or a lack of desire for social situations. You can also check out these 21 Warning Signs Your Child Is Bullying or Being Bullied.
What You Can Do
Every instance of bullying will be slightly different, but there are some common strategies you can use to help your child when you think he is being bullied.
1. Talk to him. Ask your child how he's feeling, how his school day went. If he mentions events that could be construed as bullying, stay calm and ask for more details ("How did that make you feel?" "What happened after that?").
2. Give him strategies. What should your child do if a bully approaches him again? You can give him simple, non-violent phrases to practice, ask him to speak with his teacher or a school administrator, or advise him to seek a group of friends who are supportive, rather than predatory.
3. Take action yourself. If you decide to get involved, just remember: you are an adult, be the adult in the situation. Rather than seek revenge, reach out to your child's teacher or a school administrator and see how she can help resolve the situation. Has she noticed your child being bullied? Has she noticed the bully picking on other students? You can even try reaching out to the parent or guardian of the bully to help turn a bad situation into a much better one.