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Home / News and Events / Health Tips / Put a stop to bullying
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Put a stop to bullying
 

Reviewed By: Kristin Rager, M.D., pediatrician at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt (Last Updated: November 28, 2011)
  
With the invention of the Internet and cell phones, bullying isn't just limited to pushing and shoving on the playground or the lunchroom any more. The swirling rumors and cruel jokes often follow children home where the bullying continues via text messages and social networking sites.

Bullying occurs when a person is exposed to repeated cruel or aggressive behavior - physically, emotionally or verbally - and may be in a situation of imbalanced power. The consequences can cause a child to become withdrawn, afraid of going to school or feel a sense of hopelessness that can lead to more drastic actions.

That's why it's more important than ever - with ever-evolving technology - for parents and caregivers to look for signs that their child is a victim of bullying, or learn how to identify if their child is a bully.

"Bullying should not be ignored because it can be associated with long-term problems for the one being bullied, such as increased rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, decreased school performance, among other effects," said Kristin Rager, M.D., a pediatrician at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. "On the part of the bully, there are increased rates of substance abuse and continued violence."

In 2009 in Tennessee, 20 percent of female high school students and 15 percent of male high school students reported being bullied on school property in the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Studies from independent think-tank Pew Research Center show that online and cell phone bullying is even more prevalent. About 32 percent of teens say they have experienced some form of harassment online and 26 percent say they've been bullied by cell phone, text or voicemail.

"Many adolescents that we see tell us about bullying," said Rager. "I have definitely seen an increase in bullying through venues such as Facebook, by spreading rumors, posting comments and pictures and simply ‘ignoring' people."

So, how do you know if your child is being bullied? There are red flags including:

  • Damaged, missing or "lost" belongings.
  • Unexplained injuries.
  • Fear of going to school or other social activities.
  • New changes in mood, behaviors; difficulty sleeping or eating.

Rager suggests that parents speak with their children to come up with solutions together, and affirm that bullying is wrong. Parents can also contact the school to discuss the bullying in private.

"We reassure the teen or young child that such behaviors are not OK, and we brainstorm with them and their parents on how they'd like to handle it," said Rager. "Sometimes we offer counseling if we think they could benefit."

On the flip side, your child could be the bully. Common signs that the child is the aggressor include: gets into verbal or physical fights with others; is quick to blame others; has difficulty accepting responsibility for actions; comes home with unexplained extra money or belongings.


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