Whether in schools, at playgrounds, online or elsewhere, bullying is a serious issue among children that can have long-lasting, negative effects. In fact, studies show bullying has been linked to mental health issues, substance abuse and suicide.
So, how do you protect your child from bullying? According to StopBullying.gov, recognizing the warning signs is an important first step to taking action, especially since many kids who are bullied won’t ask for help.
To detect possible bullying, look for these changes in children:
- Unexplainable injuries.
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry.
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness.
- Changes in eating habits, such as suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they didn’t eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares.
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork or not wanting to go to school.
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations.
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem.
- Self-destructive behaviors, such as running away from home, harming themselves or talking about suicide.
With the rise of electronics and social media, cyberbullying is increasingly common among kids, as well. Watch out for these warning signs when they’re on their cellphones, computers or tablets:
- Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting.
- Strong emotional responses, such as anger or sadness, to what’s happening on their device.
- Attempts to hide their screen or device when others are near.
- Avoidance of discussing what they’re doing on their device.
Please note that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs.
Parents, school staff and other caring adults have a role to play in preventing bullying.
For example, help kids understand what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Provide tips, such as using humor and saying “stop” directly and confidently to a bully. Talk about what to do if those actions don’t work, such as walking away. Other safety strategies include staying near adults or groups of other kids.
Also make sure kids know how to get help. Encourage them to speak to a trusted adult if they’re bullied or see others being bullied. Adults can give comfort, support and advice, even if they can’t solve the problem directly.
Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
Perhaps most importantly, keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school and understand their concerns.
For more information on bullying, visit StopBullying.gov.