Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Robin Welsh, M.D., has tips for parents and children
There are many different forms of bullying. Bullying is defined as repeated oppression by psychological or physical actions toward a less powerful person by a more powerful person or group.
Direct bullying can be physical or verbal. Examples of physical bullying are bumping, shoving, holding back or restraining, shoving someone into a locker, etc. Verbal bullying involves name calling, belittling or threats.
Indirect bullying can be a group of friends turning against a person, starting a rumor or doing or saying something that affects a person’s social status. Other examples of indirect bullying include hurtful graffiti, displaying negative body language or excluding someone from social groups.
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to oppress or harm someone through texting, voicemail, email, photos, videos and other technology. Cyberbullying may occur one-on- one or information may be distributed to a whole group.
Male bullies tend to be more physically aggressive than girls. Girls tend to operate under the radar and often act in groups, trying to inflict psychological pain on their victim. Girls target a perceived weakness in another girl and may make negative comments about her clothing or appearance.
Bullies tend to prey on children who are less assertive. Bullies may have an emotional perception of weakness in their victims or they may feel jealous of their victims.
Signs that your child may be a victim of bullying:
Educate your child that bullying exists and explain that bullies often are unhappy or insecure. You should lay the groundwork for open discussions about possible bullying and let your child know that if bullying occurs, you want to know and you will help them.
Explain that bullying can happen at school, recess, church, at after-school activities or in the neighborhood. Bullying tends to peak in middle school. If your child recognizes a bullying situation, empower your child to speak up for the victim when possible. If your child is the victim, encourage your child to tell you, a teacher or another trusted adult. Many schools now have bullying prevention programs.
Recognize that some children are afraid to tell on bullies because of possible repercussions. Keep the lines of communication open with your child. Stay very involved in your child’s life and ask questions to draw them out.
It also is important to monitor your child’s cellphone, social media and online activities and make your child aware that you are doing so for their general safety. As a parent, you have that right and responsibility, especially when your child first begins using social media.
Many parents are not aware of the prevalence of bullying and of the capabilities bullies have to use technology and social media to exert power over victims. The consequences of bullying are real. For instance, studies show that victims of bullies often are susceptible to joining gangs for acceptance and protection. Also, it is estimated that many childhood suicides are directly related to bullying.
Bullying is a power play. Talking about bullying with your child is an important step in protecting your child and identifying problems before they progress.
About Robin Welsh, M.D.
Dr. Welsh is a board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist with more than 25 years experience. She is an assistant professor of Clinical Pediatrics on the faculty of the USC School of Medicine and the Director of Developmental Pediatrics with the Palmetto Health USC Medical Group. Dr. Welsh has worked in the public, private and academic sectors of child psychiatry dealing with many issues that affect children and adolescents.
About Children’s Hospital
Palmetto Health Children's Hospital is South Carolina’s first children's hospital and has more than 150,000 children’s visits each year. It offers more than 30 subspecialties to meet the unique health care needs of children and has central South Carolina's only Children’s Emergency Center. With more than 350 professionals who work exclusively with children, Palmetto Health Children's Hospital has a team of highly skilled and trained experts unmatched by any hospital in the Midlands. Palmetto Health Children's Hospital is the place to go for children's medical care, because the best care matters.