Despite raising awareness of the problem, and anti-bullying campaigns such as First Lady Melania Trump’s “Be Best” initiative, the unfortunate truth is that bullying among school-aged kids continues to rise.
According to the national statistics on stopbullying.gov:
- Been Bullied
- Seen Bullying
- Been Cyberbullied
- 9% of students in grades 6–12 experienced cyberbullying.2
- 15% of high school students (grades 9–12) were electronically bullied in the past year.
- However, 55.2% of LGBTQ students experienced cyberbullying.
- 9% of students in grades 6–12 experienced cyberbullying.2
The statistics regarding bullying and teen suicide rates are even grimmer. According to the CDC:
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
- Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims
It is imperative that parents, teachers, and students learn to see the signs of bullying and help students who may be at risk of committing suicide. Here are some of the “red flags” to watch out for, that could indicate that your child is the target of bullies.
1 – Aches, pains and chronic illness – Many kids do not like to go to school, but since school is usually “ground zero” for bullying, if your child is consistently reluctant to wake up and head out happily to school in the morning, it could be a signal that something is wrong. Parents should pay attention to recurring excuses to stay home, such as aches and pains, or frequent calls from the school nurse requesting an early pickup. Chronic stomach aches and/or headaches are a very common excuse to be on the lookout for.
2 – Declining grades – We all want our child to excel academically, and naturally kids want to succeed, but grades can often suffer when a child is being bullied. High anxiety levels can interfere with children’s ability to focus and pay attention in the classroom. Closely related to declining grades is increased disruptive behavior in classes, or cutting classes, particularly among teens.
3 – Missing Out on Sports and Other Afterschool Activities – School sports and after-school activities are often a hot-bed for bullying. If you have a child who was once very active in certain sports, but suddenly starts saying that he or she feels like they are not good enough to play, or that they were the cause of the team losing the game, or that “they are just not into it anymore,” any of these could mean they are being bullied by other team members. Also, parents should take note if their once-active children are now spending more time on the computer, playing video games or texting friends instead of interacting in person. They could be isolating themselves from social activities such as sports teams or after-school activities on purpose – and bullying is usually the culprit.
4 – Changes in Eating Habits – Think about all those teenage movies out there. Between flipped-over lunch trays and stolen lunch money, Hollywood has painted the picture-perfect source of bullying: the High School Cafeteria. In this case, fiction is not so far from the truth.
When children come home from school, parents should not only ask about their day, but who they eat lunch with and what they ate. A change in eating habits could be a big warning sign of bullying. Children who receive free or subsidized meals are often a prime target for lunchroom bullying. Parents should speak with the school about ways for those children to not stand out from the crowd.
5 – Unexplained Injuries – Bumps and bruises are common playground injuries among grade school kids, but if children can’t remember how they got injured, seem to switch stories about where and how they got hurt, or if the story doesn’t match up to the nature of the bruise, this could be a signal that they are being bullied physically. Parents need to ask what happened and reinforce that other students should be keeping their hands to themselves.
6 – Sleep Issues – If a child is nervous or anxious about what might happen the next day at school or elsewhere, he or she could have trouble falling asleep. Tossing and turning during the night, waking often, or constant nightmares, could all be signs of a bullying situation occurring at school or elsewhere.
What to Do If You See These Signs
If you see these signs in your child, particularly if you are seeing more than one of them – it might very well be his or her way of sending out a cry for help. In many cases, it is the only way they can tell you – so if you see these signs, take the time to ask your son or daughter what’s going on at school.
If you are not satisfied with the results, set up a meeting with your child’s teacher or guidance counselor to get an “inside” view of what is going on in the classroom. If your child does admit to you that he or she is being bullied, it is imperative that you speak to the school.
Also, particular with teens, you must be willing to monitor your children’s phone and internet use. Cyberbullying is as great, or even a greater problem today than physical bullying – as it is insidious, and can follow your child home, or wherever he or she goes – well beyond the school day being over. If your child is being cyberbullied, there can be no escape or “safe-place” even at home!
Be an active participant with school activities if you can, to meet the other children and parents in the community. Ask about your children’s friends, who they spend time with at recess or sit with on the bus, and nurture those friendships by suggesting those children come over after school or on weekends.
The most important thing you can do as a parent if your child is being bullied, is to reinforce that you are there to be supportive of him or her, and are there to help find solutions, whatever it takes!