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Put a Stop to Bullying

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Unfortunately, bullying is far too common these days. It seems like there is a headline in the news everyday as a child brings a gun to school to threaten others, or a child is beaten into a coma by bullies, or even stories of child taking their own life after they have been bullied.

Bullying is defined as “any repeated negative activity or aggression intended to harm or bother someone perceived by peers as less physically or psychologically powerful than the aggressor”.  In other words, bullying is when one child picks on another child again and again.  A child that is being bullied typically feels helpless and often does not even talk about being bullied. Bullying also typically happens while other children are watching.

The American Academy of Pediatrics wants pediatricians to take an active role in discussing bullying with children and their parents in hopes of  preventing bullying in schools. As the incidence of bullying has increased and taken on “a life of its own”, the consequences of bullying are becoming all too common. In most cases bullying does not lead to headline stories, but rather may be heralded by children who have frequent headaches, or tummy aches or anxiety about school or even school refusal and frequent absences.

imagesChildren who have been bullied admit to feeling depressed or sad. Children may be bullied in many different ways, including physical bullying, verbal, social bullying or a combination of all of these. Children feel helpless against all of these different types of bullying and may not report the behaviors to parents or teachers.

Children must be taught about bullying and be ready to protect themselves from being bullied.  As with so many issues with child rearing, children who have quality family time with dinners or family evenings for exercise or watching a movie have more conversations with their parents.  Ask your children how things are going at school.  Query as to how the kids in the class act towards one another and then ask them if they feel as if anyone is being bullied or picked on.

Bullying is different than just playground “fights” or teasing. It is persistent and malignant and the child becomes a victim from the bullying. Explaining the difference to your children is important to help them understand bullying. Open conversations will hopefully enable your child to come to you for help if they feel like they are being bullied or know of bullying.

The newest and maybe one of the most harmful forms of bullying is via “cyberspace”.  A study done in 2007 looked at electronic bullying among middle school students.  Victims of bullying reported that instant messaging was the most common method used to bully, followed by chat rooms, email messages, websites and text messages.  As electronic media continues to grow and be used at younger ages the importance of parents discussing “etiquette” in cyber space cannot be emphasized enough.

Teach children to read what they have written aloud before sending a message, and to think if they would be comfortable saying the same thing to someone in person. The anonymity and emotion evoked from a text message may not be realized until it is too late. Social skills on line are equally as important as those within the home and school.

We need to be aware of the recent increases in bullying and support interventions to decrease aggressive behavior. Bullies need to be accountable for their behavior and there need to be clear consequences for bullies both at home and school.   It takes “a village” to change behaviors, and this behavior cannot be tolerated!

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your question to Dr. Sue right now!

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