By Jill Penley
Bullying at school is an age-old problem, and too many take the “children will be children” attitude toward the problem. School violence has been the focus of media attention in recent years, mostly due to coverage of events such as school shootings and suicides and one of the common issues relating these tragedies is bullying. What exactly is bullying? Not surprisingly, there is no uniform definition of bullying.
A recent American Academy of Pediatrics publication defined bullying as: “A form of aggression in which one or more children repeatedly and intentionally intimidate, harass, or physically harm a victim who is perceived as unable to defend herself or himself. “
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, as many as half of all children are bullied at some point during their school years. At least ten percent are bullied
Despite the best efforts of educators to curtail it, bullying continues in Tennessee schools. State law now requires school systems to implement a policy defining bullying and outlining the punishment for students
who intimidate their classmates.
Besides the physical, emotional, and psychological tolls it takes on victims, bullying produces adverse socioeconomic outcomes. The Association for Psychological Science recently found that those who are bullies, victims, or both are more likely to experience poverty, academic failure, and job termination in their adulthood than those who were neither. In addition, the affected individuals are more likely to commit a crime and to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Bullying behavior can be physical, verbal, or electronic. With the advent of social media, bullying has expanded and can now penetrate every computer and cell phone in the country.
If a child becomes withdrawn, depressed, or reluctant to go to school, or if you see a decline in school performance, bullying may be the culprit.
“Your child doesn’t need you to go ballistic or take on the problem as your own,” said Peggy Moss, a nationally known expert on bullying and a tireless advocate for the prevention of hate violence. “Your child needs to know that he’s being heard and that his feelings matter. Once you’ve got the whole story out, depending upon what’s happened, you can take your next step.”
Parents are often reluctant to report bullying to school officials, but it may be necessary to contact a child’s teacher and principal. Experts caution parents, however, to keep emotions in check and provide factual information only.
“If you suspect your child is bullying others, it’s essential to seek help for him or her as soon as possible. Without intervention, bullying can lead to serious academic, social, emotional, and legal difficulties. Talk to your child’s pediatrician, teacher, principal, school counselor, or family physician. If the bullying continues, a comprehensive evaluation by a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professionals should be arranged. The assessment can help you, and your child understands what is causing the bullying, and help you develop a plan to stop the destructive behavior.”