Every child has the right to feel safe. Children should feel safe at school, on the bus, when walking to and from school in their neighborhood, or when playing at the park or playground. Bullying can destroy that sense of safety and potentially cause a child mental and emotional problems for years to come.
The first step to preventing bullying is to recognize it in its different forms.
Social bullying involves harming a child’s relationships with his or her peers or damaging their reputation. This may come in the form of spreading embarrassing rumors about the child, telling others not to play with them, singling them out and excluding them from events and activities, or publicly embarrassing or humiliating them.
If a child seems to not have any friends or is frequently left out of events in which other children are participating, they may be the target of social bullying. Children may be unaware that this type of behavior is bullying, and may not bring it to the attention of parents, teachers, or other trusted adults. It is often necessary for adults to initiate the conversation about social bullying to learn what is going on in the child’s life.
Bullying always involves repeated and aggressive behavior that causes harm to the victim. Words often have the power to cause the greatest harm, especially in children. Verbal bullying involves teasing and name-calling, taunting the child, or threatening them with physical harm. Verbal bullying can also include inappropriate sexual remarks. Verbal bullying seeks to establish power over the victim through fear and intimidation.
While children may recognize that the verbal bullying hurts them, they may be unaware that it is wrong behavior. Many people, especially children, have the mindset that it is only words, and so it isn’t really wrong. As a result, children may be less likely to report verbal bullying except in cases where physical harm is threatened. A child who becomes withdrawn and isolated may be shielding themselves from verbal bullying.
Physical bullying is the most likely to be reported by the victims or witnesses of the behavior. Physical bullying involves hitting, kicking, pushing, biting, or other physical attacks. Physical bullying can also include breaking or stealing a victim’s belongings.
A child may be intimidated by a bully to keep silent about the abuse. Signs of physical bullying include bruises or cuts, torn or dirtied clothes, or the loss of possessions. Assure the child they have a right to be safe and will be protected by the adults around them. This may help them feel safe to up about any physical abuse taking place.
Bullying is not a normal part of growing up. No child should expect to be verbally, socially, or physically bullied. By recognizing the signs of bullying, adults can help children talk about what is happening to them and take steps to keep them safe in the future.
The information and content on our website should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment or advice from your doctor.