Bullying can be a serious problem among school age children that results in serious emotional distress for the victim. Fortunately, this problem has received more attention recently, and many schools now have specific policies to deal with bullying. Just how common is bullying? According to a 2009 study by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of children have been targets of bullies at some point during their school years. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology claims that according to surveys, up to half of all children have been bullied. Although these statistics are discouraging, experts have also identified ways to deal with and prevent bullying.
First, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that bullying may be physical, social, or verbal. There is always an imbalance of power between the victim and the aggressor. For example, the bully may use physical strength, threats, or even popularity to isolate or intimidate another child.
Given how damaging bullying can be, it may seem surprising that some children never ask for help. Bullying is humiliating and it can be difficult for children to talk about. Also, children might be afraid that they will make the problem worse if they tell adults, feel that no one understands, or feel ashamed of their “weakness.” When a child does open up to parents, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that school officials mediate between the parents of both children. In addition, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology suggests that parents help their children use the following strategies:
- Practice what to say to the bully.
- Insist that the bully leave him/ her alone. Parents can emphasize that bullies want to get a reaction, feeding their sense of power.
- Stay with friends. Bullies are less likely to target children in a group.
With adults as allies, children who are bullied will gain assertiveness and be prepared to deal with similar situations in the future. For more information, visit stopbullying.gov, a website maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.