Child in stress

It’s common for kids to engage in playful teasing with friends or siblings. When both kids are having fun, it’s usually harmless. But, according to KidsHealth.org, when teasing becomes hurtful or mean, is ongoing, or gets physical, it has crossed the line into bullying.

Bullying can mean kids at school are being unkind to a child or making fun in a way that is hurtful. It can include ongoing taunting on social media. Sometimes the problem escalates to physical violence. Each case of bullying is different, and the signs aren’t always clear.

Unless your child has visible bruises or injuries or tells you about it, you may not be aware of the bullying. If your child is experiencing any of the following, they may be signs of bullying:

  • Trouble eating or sleeping
  • Being afraid or not wanting to go to school
  • Lack of interest in activities they enjoy
  • Anxiety, depression, or moodiness
  • Struggling in classes or with schoolwork

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Effects of School Bullying

According to StopBullying.gov, the effects of school bullying can follow children into adulthood. Possible effects include:

  • Emotional or mental health issues, such as clinical depression and anxiety
  • Changes in hobbies or enjoyment of certain activities
  • Physical health complaints
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Decrease in academic performance, including lower GPA, test scores, and school attendance

Most kids who are bullied do not experience suicidal thoughts. But children who commit suicide often were bullied at school. The risk of suicide increases for certain groups, such as LGBTQ+ youth.

The children who bully others at school can exhibit harmful tendencies, such as:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Violence and criminal activity
  • Decrease in academic performance
  • Abuse of family members, partners, or children as an adult

Preventing School Bullying

You may not be able to prevent school bullying altogether, but you can prepare your child for bullies and help ensure they do not become one.

Talk to Your Child About What Bullying Is and How to Identify It

StopBullying.gov provides resources for talking to your kids about bullying. Start by watching videos or talking about examples of bullying so that they know what to look for.

Encourage kids to tell a trusted adult if they see someone being bullied or if they experience school bullying themselves. It may also help to give your child tips for standing up to a bully, like using humor or walking away.

Most importantly, strive to maintain open communication with your child. Ask about their school day, friends, and feelings.

Talk to Your Child About What to Do if They Witness Bullying

Bystanders who take action when they see bullying can make a big difference. If your child sees someone being bullied, encourage them to:

  • Speak to an adult — let them know that it’s not tattling to help someone who’s being hurt
  • Ask a bullying victim to play, or start a conversation with them to redirect attention away from the bully
  • Walk next to a victim of bullying, as many bullies avoid situations with more than one person

Stay Involved in Your Child’s Life

Being present and modeling respect and kindnessvcan help your child avoid being bullied and prevent them from becoming a bully. Get to know your child’s bus driver, teachers, and school staff. Read newsletters and handouts from the school. Finally, stay in touch with other kids’ parents. All are good ways to gain insight into your child’s activities and any problems they may be facing.

The best way to prevent bullying is to talk with your children often. Let your kids know that it’s wrong to be mean to others. Be an example by showing kindness to others. Ask your child if they’ve ever witnessed bullying and how it made them feel, and reinforce the importance of kindness and inclusion. Providing support and guidance can go a long way to help them navigate their budding social lives and put a stop to bullying.

For more resources on preventing school bullying, contact UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh‘s Community Education Department at 412-692-7105.

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From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh ranks consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is a longtime national leader for women and their newborns. We aim to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond.