No Community Is Immune from Bullying
In the daily whir of parenting, of dinners that need to be cooked, laundry that needs to be folded, homework that needs to be checked, bills that need to be paid, it is easy to overlook the signs of bullying.
Your child’s stomachache, his refusal to take the bus to school or lack of appetite due to stress may be signs that he is being bullied -- or is the bully himself! But as every ridiculously busy parent knows, it is hard to parse out the signs.
That is why I am grateful for the growing anti-bullying movement. October is officially National Bullying Prevention Month and the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is one key partner doing its part to help spread awareness.
SAMHSA just released an easy and clever application for mobile phones that allows for parents to both recognize and address bullying or bullied behavior in their children. The application, which can be downloaded here, includes the following features:
· Conversation Starters: Start easy, meaningful conversations with your children.
· Tips: Learn strategies to prevent bullying for ages 3-6, 7-13, and teens.
· Warning Signs: Recognize if your child is engaging in bullying, being bullied, or witnessing bullying.
· Reminders: Talk with your child when the time seems right: a quiet moment on the way to school or a game, during dinner, or relaxing outside.
· Social Media: Share successful strategies and useful advice via Facebook, Twitter, email, and text messages.
· Section for Educators: Prevent bullying in the classroom and support children who are being bullied.
Bullying is uncomfortably common, disruptive to both a school community and the home, and has long-term negative health consequences for children and adolescents. More than 160,000 students stay home from school each day for fear of being bullied, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. AAP, which supports state-wide policies that address both on-campus and off-campus bullying in addition to cyberbullying, states that bullying directly affects a student’s ability to learn and “students who are bullied show a decline in grades, and lose self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth.”
AAP adds on its website: “Students who are bullied report more physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomachaches, and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, than other students.”
Bullying occurs in all communities across the country whether they are large cities, suburbs or rural schools. “Depending on the environment, some groups—such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) youth, youth with disabilities, and socially isolated youth—may be at an increased risk of being bullied,” according to the government website StopBullying.gov.
And bullying behavior isn’t limited to physical schoolyard fights. Bullying may include verbal threats and attacks, and intentional exclusion or marginalization. Bullying can take place in or outside of school. And cyberbullying, which takes place over phones and computers, can be just as harmful as in-person bullying, according to AAP.
If you suspect that your child or another child is being bullied or is the bully, here are some resources at your fingertips. Scroll to the bottom of this three-page AAP PDF file for anti-bullying resources, including tips offered by StopBullying.gov. To download the SAMHSA application for practical daily tips on preventing and identifying bullying behavior, click here.
Together we can stop school bullies in their tracks and ensure that all children can thrive in a safe and healthy environment!