Bullying persists

April 02, 2010

Bullying probably has been around since the dawn of man. Unfortunately, bullying continues today with sometimes tragic results.

You may have heard about the recent death of a child in North Texas after incidents of bullying. Word of the child's death followed news about a recent bullying case in Massachusetts that led to the death of a teenage girl. That case is notable for the severity of the bullying.

Advice for parents

Crista Wetherington, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist at Children's Medical Center, says it is important to talk to your children and teenagers about bullying before the signs actually appear. She has these suggestions:

  • Ask your child what the climate is like at school, whether friendly or hostile or somewhere in between.
  • Starting at a young age, talk about how children should treat each other while at school and at play.
  • Observe how your children get along with schoolmates and playmates and ask them how they feel about these interactions.
  • Pay attention to signs such as changes in behavior, increased withdrawal or irritability, mood changes, and refusal to attend school that may indicate problems in the school environment.
  • Be involved at your child's school — know the other parents and students, and have open lines of communication with teachers.
  • Advocate for your child. If you are dissatisfied with how bullying is being handled, continue to make your concerns known and escalate the issue if you have to.

Cyberbullying

Bullying also has increasingly taken a high-tech turn and is now often conducted in cyberspace. Some ways Wetherington says you can help your children with the possible threat of cyberbullying are to:

  • Keep track of your child's electronic device accounts.
  • Put the computer in an open area of your home and monitor your child's online usage.
  • Block or filter incoming messages.
  • Change your child's Internet address or phone number if you have to.
  • Keep records of all cyberbullying in case you have to contact law enforcement officials.

Despite the recent spate of bullying news in the media, it appears that, overall, cases of physical bullying are down sharply, according to a recently published national survey that compared 2003 to 2008 responses. However, Wetherington says it's important for parents, teachers and school administrators to remain vigilant about monitoring bullying.

“While the results of the survey may be encouraging, there is no room for complacency on the issue of bullying because the rates are still too high and the consequences too great,” Wetherington says.

If you think your child is a victim of bullying or has become depressed, consider talking to your primary care provider about community counseling resources.

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