Georgia was the first state to enact anti bullying legislation in May of 1999, following the tragic Columbine shooting in April 1999. Whether your child is the one being bullied or the one that is doing the bullying, the effects can be long-lasting and life-changing, so it is important to discuss this topic on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, there are several types of bullying, including physical, social, verbal, and cyber bullying, which is becoming more common this year with a transition to virtual learning. Children are spending more and more time online and it is too easy to bully others when you are not looking them in the face and can be anonymous with fake profiles.
We are often reactionary and try to address bullying after it has become an issue, but it is equally important to determine why the bullying started and what is causing the bully to act out against others. Some of the common causes include feeling powerless, being the victim of bullying themselves, jealousy and frustration, lack of empathy, lack of acceptance, seeking attention, a difficult homelife, the need for control, and/or not being able to regulate emotions. Bullies are often written off as being “bad kids” but it is important to find the root cause and address it. When adults act swiftly and consistently, it sends the message that bullying is not an acceptable outlet.
Picking up on early signs of bullying are essential if we are going to help these children and put a stop to it immediately. Early signs of bullying include unexplained injuries, loss of personal possessions with no explanation, frequent headaches or faking illness, changes in eating habits, nightmares or difficulty sleeping, sudden decline in friends or avoiding social situations, drop in self-esteem, and/or threats of running away or hurting themselves. Your child may not ask for help right away due to fears of backlash from the bully, fear of being rejected by other peers, or they are simply embarrassed. Open communication is key, but your child may not be ready to talk about it just yet.
Children who are bullied often suffer from depression, loneliness, anxiety, health complaints, and decreased success academically and professionally. Children who bully often get involved in drugs and alcohol at a young age, get into fights, get in trouble with law enforcement, and may be abusive in their adult relationships.
We, as parents, guardians, and educators may not be able to detect and stop every act of bullying, but we must be observant and ready to address with our youth so that we can all make a difference for the next generation.