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Our View: Bullying - in school and beyond

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Recently, an incident of bullying that took place in our community made national headlines due to its severity and nature. While this particular case ended in a positive way with school officials addressing and acting upon it, it was a vivid reminder that bullying is a serious topic we must pay close attention to.

While our area schools all have policies in place to prevent bullying, and are always working to improve their prevention of it, it’s quite common for bullying to extend far beyond the school grounds. Every day, everywhere, every place and at nearly every hour, many of our youth are subject to cyberbullying through social media beyond the school day.

Bullying does not just happen in schools. For that reason, such destructive behavior is always a community-wide concern. Parents, community members and schools must work together as a team to be vigilant against bullying.

How do you identify bullying? Some bullying tactics are obviously severe, but more inconspicuous episodes may be more mental or emotional in nature and not as physically threatening.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, verbal bullying can include teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting or merely threatening to cause harm.

Social bullying — often called relational bullying — involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Symptoms include leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone or spreading rumors about someone.

More aggressive physical bullying can include hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping, pushing, taking or breaking someone’s things, or making mean or rude hand gestures.

Whether verbal or physical, bullying is a serious situation. Bullied students can feel emotionally unsafe, as such attacks can be very disruptive to personal well-being.

Unfortunately, adults or community members may sometimes minimize concern of bullying situations. Parents need to talk with their kids about bullying and strategies for learning to cope with all situations, including those without threats of violence.

Parents need to be vigilant of social media. They may not be aware of what their child may be posting or viewing on social media if they don’t keep a watchful eye online.

There are many warning signs that may indicate that someone is affected by bullying – either being bullied or bullying others. Recognizing the warning signs is an important first step in taking action against bullying. Not all children who are bullied or are bullying others ask for help.

It is important to talk with children who show signs of being bullied or bullying others. These warning signs can also point to other issues or problems, such as depression or substance abuse. Talking to the child can help identify the root of the problem.

Signs a child is being bullied:

  • Look for changes in the child. However, be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs.
  • Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are: 
  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not 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
  • If you know someone in serious distress or danger, don’t ignore the problem.

Signs a Child is Bullying Others

  • Kids may be bullying others if they:   
  • Get into physical or verbal fights
  • Have friends who bully others
  • Are increasingly aggressive
  • Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
  • Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
  • Blame others for their problems
  • Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
  • Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity

Why don't kids ask for help?

  • Statistics show that an adult was notified in less than half (40 percent) of bullying incidents. Kids don’t tell adults for many reasons:
  • Bullying can make a child feel helpless. Kids may want to handle it on their own to feel in control again. They may fear being seen as weak or a tattletale.
  • Kids may fear backlash from the kid who bullied them.
  • Bullying can be a humiliating experience. Kids may not want adults to know what is being said about them, whether true or false. They may also fear that adults will judge them or punish them for being weak.
  • Kids who are bullied may already feel socially isolated. They may feel like no one cares or could understand.
  • Kids may fear being rejected by their peers. Friends can help protect kids from bullying, and kids can fear losing this support.

- Folsom Telegraph