Bullying among children and teens has been a prominent issue in schools and neighborhoods for decades but not fully understood or recognized as a critical issue until more recent years. Bullying is a growing problem in the U.S. that has escalated, in some cases, to severe forms of harassment. There are many negative effects of bullying on all involved. This malicious act can cause feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem in victims, as well as other mental and physical outcomes. More and more frequently, there are reports in the media of violent retaliations or suicides as a result of bullying.
Bullying includes physical intimidation and aggression, verbal abuse such as name calling and teasing, and social or emotional abuse such as spreading rumors or ostracizing someone. With the rapid advancement of technology, cyberbullying is a more modern form of harassment that has become more common in recent years. The use of technology and digital devices to intimidate and threaten others has brought this nationwide problem to a whole new level: Bullying can now happen anywhere, at any time and is no longer confined to the school yard. In fact, 43% of teens have reported that they have been victims of cyberbullying in the last year, according to the National Crime Prevention Council.
How do you know if your child is being bullied?
There are several signs that a parent can look for which may indicate bullying:
- Unexplainable injuries or lost/damaged belongings
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Complaints of physical ailments such as headaches or stomach aches
- 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 loneliness, hopelessness, or depression
What can you do to protect your child?
- Talk to your children and teach them safety strategies such as seeking help from a teacher or other adult
- Monitor your child’s internet use and establish rules and guidelines for online safety
- If bullying is happening in school, report it to school officials
- Stop bullying on the spot if you witness it and provide support to all involved. It is important to show that bullying behavior is wrong and will not be tolerated.
Massachusetts has taken steps to help educate the public and prevent bullying. Governor Deval Patrick instituted the Massachusetts Bullying Prevention Law in May 2010. It includes guidelines and regulations for public and non-public schools and led to the formation of the Massachusetts Commission on Bullying Prevention. Comprised of stakeholders from the law enforcement and educational communities, the commission is tasked with reviewing the state’s General Laws to determine if any need to be amended to address bullying and cyberbullying, and to investigate parental responsibility and liability for bullying and cyberbullying.
October is recognized as National Bullying Prevention Month to raise awareness of this issue, and Wednesday, October 9th is being promoted as Unity Day 2013. Help spread the message that everyone should take an active role in bullying prevention to make our schools, neighborhoods, and communities safer places to live, learn, and work.