At first glance, many people might think bullying is easy to define. Their first image of bullying might be of a physically intimidating boy beating up a smaller classmate. While that would still be considered bullying today, parents need to know that bullying behavior can be much more complex and varied than the stereotype. For example, harmful bullying can also occur quietly and covertly, or through gossip or the Internet, and can cause significant emotional damage. Bullying as an intentional behavior that hurts, harms, or humiliates a student. Those bullying often have more social or physical “power,” while those targeted have difficulty stopping the behavior. The behavior is typically repeated, though it can be a one-time incident. Students often describe bullying as when “someone makes you feel less about who you are as a person.”
There are many different types of bullying. The types of bullying include:
- Name calling, insults, teasing, intimidation, homophobic or racist remarks, or verbal abuse.
- Can start off harmless but it can escalate to levels which start affecting the individual target.
Social bullying is harder to recognize and can be carried out behind the victim’s back. It is designed to harm someone's social reputation and/or cause humiliation. Social bullying includes:
- Lying and spreading rumors
- Negative facial or physical gestures, menacing or contemptuous looks
- Playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate
- Mimicking unkindly
- Encouraging others to socially exclude someone
- Damaging someone's social reputation or social acceptance.
- Hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching and pushing or damaging property.
- Causes both short term and long term damage to the victim.
Sexual bullying is the most difficult type of bullying for a child and parents to discuss. Even though the subject may be uncomfortable to talk about, children need to know acceptable boundaries and appropriate behavior in social relationships. Students need to be provided with the appropriate social rules and norms for dating and flirting so they can act with respect toward their peers and recognize when someone is not respecting them sexually.
- Sexually charged comments
- Inappropriate glances or physical contact
- Targeted sexual jokes
Cyber bullying can be social bullying behaviors using digital technologies, such as computers and smart phones, and software such as social media, texts, websites and other online platforms. It can happen at any time and it can be public or private. Cyber bullying can include:
- Abusive or hurtful texts emails or posts, images or videos
- Deliberately excluding others online
- Nasty gossip or rumors
- Imitating others online or using their log-in
No matter what type of bullying your child may be experiencing, it’s important that you take it seriously and be aware of the impact it can have on him or her mentally, emotionally, and physically. Bullying can negatively impact a child’s educational performance, self-esteem and self-worth, cause anxiety and depression and may even lead to thoughts of self-harm.
PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center reports that more than 1 in 5 students will be bullied this year. According to the 2013 Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavioral Survey of high school students, 22.7% of students report being bullied in the previous 12 months, and 17.6% of high school students report being electronically bullied in the past 12 months.
When you discover your child is being bullied, you may feel a variety of emotions, from anger to fear to sadness. These reactions and emotional responses are natural for parents who want their child to feel valued, protected, and loved. To become an effective advocate for your child, it is important to acknowledge your emotions and then focus on developing an action plan to help your child.
- Talk with your child about bullying. When your child begins to tell their story, just listen and avoid making judgmental comments. Encourage your child to talk, and
- Support and empower your child. Let them know they are not alone and you are there to help.
- Learn your rights. Visit StopBullying.gov to find out the laws your state has put in place. You may also want to look up your child’s school’s policy on bullying.
- Think about who else should be involved. Other family members, teachers, counselors etc.
- Get involved in the community. Wear orange on Unity Day Wednesday, October 25th to help send one large ORANGE message of support, hope, and unity to show that we are together against bullying and united for kindness, acceptance and inclusion.
For more information, visit PACER.org
Submitted by Emily Ovik, Mental Health Task Force of Burnett County Coordinator
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