You can usually identify bullying through the following three characteristics: intent, repetition, and power. A bully intends to cause pain, either through physical harm or hurtful words or behavior, and does so repeatedly. Boys are more likely to experience physical bullying, while girls are more likely to experience psychological bullying. Bullying is a pattern of behavior, rather than an isolated incident. Children who bully usually come from a perceived higher social status or position of power, such as children who are bigger, stronger, or perceived to be popular. The most vulnerable children face a higher risk of being bullied. These are often children from communities that are marginalized, children from poor families, children with different gender identities, children with disabilities or migrant and refugee children. Bullying can happen both in person or online. Cyberbullying often occurs over social media, SMS/text or instant message, email, or any online platform where children interact. Because parents may not always follow what their children are doing on these platforms, it can be difficult to know when your child is affected.
Watching your child experience the physical and emotional pain of bullying or cyberbullying is heartbreaking. Some parents are unsure where to begin to help protect their children from bullying and violence. Others may not know if their children are victims, bystanders or even perpetrators of harmful behaviors.
Bullying can have harmful and long lasting consequences for children. Besides the physical effects of bullying, children may experience emotional and mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, that can lead to substance abuse and decreased performance in school. Unlike in-person bullying, cyberbullying can reach a victim anywhere, at any moment. It can cause profound harm, as it can quickly reach a wide audience and leave a permanent footprint online for all involved.
Your child has the right to a safe, nurturing school environment that respects their dignity. The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that all children have the right to an education, and protection from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse. Bullying is no exception.
The first step to keeping your child safe, whether in-person or online, is making sure they know the issue.
If you know your child is being bullied, there are several steps you can take to help them:
If you think or know that your child is bullying other children, it’s important to remember that they are not inherently bad, but may be acting out for a number of reasons. Children who bully often just want to fit in, need attention or are simply figuring out how to deal with complicated emotions. In some cases, bullies are themselves victims or witnesses to violence at home or in their community. There are several steps you should take to help your child stop bullying:
In addition to being a support system to your child, you can work with your school and even your local or national decision-makers and local leaders to change policies to prevent and address bullying.
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