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It is important to know the signs of bullying (if your child is being bullied or is bullying others); it is also important to know how to protect your children from the possibility of bullying.
The feelings associated with bullying haven’t changed much since you were a kid. The difference is children have found new ways to bully others. Research shows kids don’t get over the bullying -- there are serious long-term consequences for victims.
Children who were victims of bullying in previous generations could run home and find refuge away from school. Unfortunately, the home is not as free from bullies as it once was. The Internet, cell phones, computers and even headsets on Xbox 360s sitting in the living room can be used by bullies to attack their victims.
Most computers come preloaded with software that allows parents to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content and dangerous web pages. However, these programs do not block social networking sites like Facebook, Stickam and MySpace. These sites are not designed to be bad. In fact, they can be very positive methods for socialization of children. However, the networks can be used by your child’s peers to bully him or her.
It is important to know the signs of bullying (if your child is being bullied or is bullying others); it is also important to know how to protect your children from the possibility of bullying. Talking to your children and teaching them about bullying is a great start. But it doesn’t end there.
Here are some warning signs of bullying behavior:
Warning signs your child may be a bully
- Positive views toward violence
- Often aggressive toward adults including teachers and parents
- Marked need to control and dominate others and situations
- Male bullies tend to be physically stronger than their peers
- Hot tempered, impulsive and easily frustrated
- Often tests limits or breaks rules
- Good at talking his or her way out of difficult situations
- Shows little sympathy toward others who are bullied
Warning signs your child may be bullied
- Loss of interest in school and extracurricular activities
- Frequent complaints of illness to avoid attending school
- Sudden decrease in academic performance
- Has few or no friends with whom he or she spends time
- Unexplained bruises, scratches or cuts
- Seems afraid of going to school, riding the bus, walking to school, or taking part in organized activities with peers
- Takes long or illogical routes to school
- Seems sad, moody or depressed
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Anxiety or low self-esteem
Here are some ideas for preventing and addressing bullying behavior:
- Get to know your children’s friends and if possible their parents. Talk to your children’s teachers about how they are accepted in school or if they have conflicts with other children. Have open discussions with your children about how friends are defined and ask them about their personal relationships.
- Monitor their willingness to attend school. If they used to enjoy school and now they don’t want to go or refuse to ride the school bus, there may be a problem. Any sudden change in their grades or activities is a warning sign.
- Volunteer at their school periodically so you have a bird’s-eye view of how your children interact with others.
- If children are on Facebook or another social networking site, you should know their passwords or sit with your children as they enter these sites to see what they and their peers are posting. It’s also important to see who they have as their Facebook friends. Teach your children to change their passwords, to only add people to their friends’ list they trust or who you know, and to not send anything (pictures, videos, e-mails) over the Internet they wouldn’t want everyone at school to see.
- If your children have online access while playing video games, it is critical you listen to the activity periodically.
(Visit StopCyberBullying.org for more tips about cyberbullying.)
Cell phone bullying
- Read your young children’s text messages. Many parents may think it’s an invasion of privacy to check their children’s phones; however, it’s your responsibility to keep them safe and help them learn how to socialize.
- Check your bill to see how many texts your children are sending and receiving and at what time they are using them. Taking away their phones at bedtime is important.
Every school has some version of an anti-bullying campaign. These programs work much better if the parents reinforce the program at home. Contact your school’s counselor and ask them what materials they have for parents to use at home to combat bullying. You can also check out the websites listed here for further information.