NEW YORK CITY — Everyone knows about the schoolyard bully. But with social media, the torment usually doesn’t end in the school hallways.
“Anywhere you have people, you have hurtful behavior,” said Jessie Klein, author of “The Bully Society,” who added that children as young as 3 could experience bullying.
While every child is unique in their reaction to bullying, there are a few key warning signs that could indicate your child is being victimized:
Depression, anxiety and acting out: These are the most common symptoms of a bullied child, said Klein. Children often get anxious when they are being bullied at school or on social media websites. This could also lead to snapping or acting tense and sullen.
The urge to stay in or leave school: If a child acts oddly during recess, dismissal or in the mornings, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Often, the child may rush out of school at the end of the day. A bullied student also might linger, afraid to leave the school grounds, said Kevin Dahill-Fuchel, executive director of Counseling in Schools, a nonprofit organization that provides counseling to New York City public schools.
Isolation: It’s possible that a child could isolate himself or herself from friends and family as the result of bullying, said Dahill-Fuchel. “That would be a red flag” if a child who had been outgoing suddenly becomes more introverted, he said.
Uninterested in daily work: Another telling sign is if a child seems uninterested in activities they used to enjoy, said Klein. If a child is slipping in school work or home chores, it could be a warning sign that something is wrong.
The boisterous child: While some bullied children choose silence as a defense mechanism, others might talk constantly about kids at school (as if they are friends) to compensate for their hurt, said
Dahill-Fuchel. Parents should make an effort to meet these friends and understand the child’s relationship with them. If parents don’t have a good sense of who they are, it could be a sign that your child is trying to hide something.
If you suspect that your child is being bullied, there are a few key points to keep in mind while handling the issue:
Talk to your child: But more importantly, listen. Let the child talk about his or her experiences, what is happening and why it has happened, said Dahill-Fuchel. Since every child is different, it’s important to find a way to approach a child that suits him or her best. Direct conversation works beautifully for some children, but others may prefer a more indirect approach, said Klein.
Don’t push a child to fight back: Encouraging a child to fight back will only worsen the issue, said Dahill-Fuchel. Klein also agreed, adding that fighting back is the least effective way to instill compassion and empathy, which is necessary to stop the bullying.
After-school programs: Find out what a child is interested in and enroll him or her in after-school programs that cater to those interests. This will give the child a chance to meet other like-minded students and encourage new friendships. “The best antidote to bullying is relationships with other kids,” said Dahill-Fuchel.
Tell the school: Make sure the school guidance counselor knows what is going on, said Dahill-Fuchel. Talking to the school will help them deal with the situation. However, Klein added that storming into the school and demanding answers is not an effective way of resolving the issue.
Don’t confront the bully’s parents: “You’re just too close to the situation,” said Dahill-Fuchel. He recommends letting the guidance counselor act as mediator between the two children, which is why it is important to keep them informed.