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Signs of Bullying: Important Questions for Parents to Ask

When pediatrician Adiaha Franklin, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, visits with patients, she asks them three questions about bullying:

  1. Do you ever see kids picking on other kids?
  2. Do kids ever pick on you?
  3. Do you ever pick on kids? (And tell the truth; you're not in trouble.)

Parents can ask their kids these questions, too.

Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived difference in power. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. The difference can be in size, age, political advantage, economic advantage or social advantage.

Bullying is common, happening every seven seconds to a child in the U.S. It reaches victims in school and online via social media apps and programs like Instagram, SnapChat, WhatsApp, Burn Note, Whisper, Yik Yak and YouTube. Some apps are anonymous or enable messages to disappear after a period of time.

Bullying Signs

Kids who bully often learn the behavior at home. The bully's parents often are absent, abusive, disengaged or overly involved, according to Dr. Franklin, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician. Children who live in violent communities also are at risk.

Bullying takes many forms:

  • Physical bullying: Victim is touched or hit without consent, or his property is destroyed.
  • Verbal bullying: Victim is called names and insulted.
  • Cyberbullying: Victim is targeted online, sometimes anonymously and other times via public humiliation (e.g., a video of the victim posted on YouTube without consent).
  • Social bullying: Bully tries to destroy a victim's reputation or relationship with another person or organization.
  • Cyber harassment: When an adult bullies a child online.

All forms can cause victims to have physical illness, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. Some victims become bullies themselves. Others have suicidal thoughts.

Bullying Prevention

If a child is being bullied or is bullying another, what should be done?

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports raising awareness among children, parents, teachers and school administrators. Messages should reach victims, bullies and bystanders.

Victims are advised to seek help from an adult and peer support. Remember that the bully's behavior is not the child's fault.

Bullies should receive counseling to address the issue. Individuals who bully often suffer from depression, have conduct disorders or need support with social skills.

Parents should support their kids with consistent discipline and teach them not to join in. They also can urge schools to talk regularly with students and teachers about bullying and its consequences. An environment where students feel like they belong is more effective than punishment.

Additional Information:

Trisha Korioth , Staff Writer
Last Updated
AAP News (Copyright © 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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