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Battling bullying

Shoving on the playground. Name-calling in the cafeteria. Rumor-mongering online. They’re all forms of bullying, and they’re quite common: Fifteen percent to 25 percent of students say that someone repeatedly abuses or teases them at school. Bullying can start as early as preschool, but teens are often the cruelest.

Boys are more likely to be physically forceful bullies, while girls are prone to verbal and cyber (online) bullying. Both styles can leave long-lasting scars. Victims are more likely to be depressed, have self-esteem problems or think about suicide. Some are so intimidated they skip school to avoid their tormentors. Being a bully can also have far-reaching effects: Research shows that bullies are more likely to drop out of school and have adult criminal records.

  • Is my child being bullied? Kids who are picked on may be shy and have few friends. Sometimes they’re targeted for looking different or acting differently. Some are too embarrassed to admit they’re being victimized, but be persistent if your child changes his or her eating or sleeping habits, cries easily, frequently wants to skip school, brings home possessions that have been damaged but won’t explain how they got that way or talks about peers disliking him or her. Explain that it isn’t your child’s fault and teach him or her to be more assertive and to walk away from bullies instead of responding to the teasing and harassment. Discuss the situation with school faculty and come up with a plan to solve the problem.
  • Is my child a bully? Bullies enjoy bossing people around and they may have bad tempers. If you witness your child intimidating others or if parents or teachers tell you your child is a bully, let him or her know that these actions aren’t acceptable, and enforce punishments as necessary. Help your child to empathize with victims and find alternate ways to vent frustration or anger.