Bullying is a pervasive problem in schools nationwide. About 19% of students in grades 9 through 12 reported experiencing bullying in various on-campus locations, while more than 15% said they had been targets of online or text-based harassment or threats.
The effects of bullying in adolescence can be widespread and persist into adulthood, including social and emotional issues, mental health disorders, substance abuse and decreased academic performance. If your son is a bullying victim, what steps can you take to help him during Bullying Prevention Month and beyond?
Types of Bullying
Children of all ages can be targets of bullying at school. Not all bullies are the same. Each has a different style and uses various tactics to intimidate and control their victims. The unwanted, aggressive behavior bullies use may take many forms, such as:
- Physical abuse, including hitting, punching, slapping, kicking or shoving. Bullies who take this tactic tend to be older, taller or stronger than their victims.
- Verbal bullying, like name-calling or insults. Kids with noticeable differences, such as those with special needs, may get singled out for this abuse.
- Relational aggression involves emotional and social manipulation. A relationally aggressive bully aims to improve their status by excluding, ignoring or intimidating the target.
- Cyberbullying encompasses any form of technology used to harm, threaten, stalk or demean others. Since most teens use smartphones and are always connected, this form of harassment is becoming increasingly problematic. Because cyberbullies can remain anonymous, they may feel they can do or say anything they like without fear of repercussions.
- Prejudicial bullying includes discriminating against someone for perceived differences such as race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or even socioeconomic status. Bullies who engage in this form of abuse may use physical, verbal, emotional or online harassment to torment their targets.
How to Deal With Bullies
The best way to start addressing bullying is to recognize the signs your child may be a victim. Start by paying attention to his behavior. Has he recently become withdrawn, unusually stressed or lost interest in school and extracurricular activities?
Be a good communicator. Ask plenty of open-ended questions to help you learn who your son is hanging out with and keep track of any changes in his friendships or social status. Since you can’t always be around, ensure your son feels comfortable speaking up about any bullying he experiences or witnesses to any teacher, coach or other authority figure. If your child is reluctant to report the bullying, go with him to talk to his teacher, guidance counselor or principal.
Remember, bullies make themselves feel better by mocking or belittling others. The more confidence you instill in your child, the less likely it will become that the bullying will affect his self-esteem. Encourage hobbies and activities that help your child thrive. Tell him to embrace what makes him unique and be proud of his talents.
Getting Help for Your Family
If bullying is affecting your family dynamic and quality of life, you may wish to seek involvement from experts such as family counselors. Various nonprofit organizations in your community may also offer free or low-cost bullying prevention resources for you to take advantage of.
Has your son struggled with his mental health, social skills or academics due to bullying? At ARCH Academy, we offer a solution. Young men grappling with substance abuse, depression and other issues that can impact their future can benefit from a professional treatment program designed to meet their needs. To learn more about our alternative school for young men, reach out today.