Not a day goes by without another gut-wrenching tale of bullying making headlines. Schoolyards erupt in violence. Social-media sites turn into cyber lynch mobs. Kids commit suicide after enduring months of abuse. Despite all the media attention, parents often remain in the dark about what actions to take when it happens to their children — or when their children bully others.
What can parents really do? What are the signs to watch for? How do you distinguish garden-variety personality conflicts between kids (which may include some mean behavior) from actual bullying? We contacted two experts, Drexel University professor and director of the Center for the Prevention of School-Aged Violence Charles Williams (aka Dr. Chuck) and clinical psychologist and author John Mayer, to clear up the common misconceptions about bullying and give parents the facts.
Myth #1: You’ll know when your child is being bullied
Just because your child doesn’t tell you he or she is being bullied doesn’t mean it’s not happening. In 2007 almost a third of middle and high schoolers reported that they’d been bullied at school. And those are the ones who admitted it. “It’s one of those silent issues,” Williams says. Many kids don’t speak up because they think that it will lead to more abuse, because they’re ashamed, and because of the powerful unwritten code against snitching.
If your child comes home with torn clothing; starts complaining about going to school; has unexplained bruises, cuts, and scratches; or seems depressed and socially isolated, these are signs of bullying. If you suspect bullying, keep talking with your child and go to the school for help and input. Talk with your child’s teacher, a school administrator, or a school counselor to notify them of any problems, ask if they’ve noticed any incidents, and work with them to deal with the problem sooner rather than later.