Recognizing a new age of bullying for our kids

Published 5:55 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bullying is the intentional physical, verbal or psychological torment of a peer that can range from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats and mocking to extorting money and treasured possessions.
Some kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumors about them.
Others use email, chat rooms, instant messages, social networking websites and text messages to taunt others or hurt their feelings. This is the new age of bullying.
Bullying has always been around. Many adults endured some sort of childhood bullying, but it was usually in the form of name-calling or teasing and managed to stay confined to a playground. Today, the concept of bullying is the same as it has always been, but its method of delivery has changed with the times.
Technology has become a giant megaphone broadcasting names and threats across cyberspace, leaving a digital trail of torment that many children and teens feel is inescapable. Sadly, the news has recently highlighted horrific stories of child and teen suicide because of bullying.
As a therapist working primarily with children and teens, I routinely treat clients dealing with the effects of bullying. Often, these children have symptoms of depression and anxiety that need to be treated before the child’s mental state further deteriorates to a place of hopelessness.
Sometimes these kids are too scared to tell anyone what is truly the cause of these symptoms because they are ashamed or afraid of retribution.
It is important for parents to recognize the signs that their children may be enduring bullying behavior, and seek professional help if they suspect this is happening to their child.

Signs include:
Loss of interest in school and extracurricular activities
Frequent complaints of illness to avoid attending school
Sudden decrease in academic performance
Has few or no friends with whom he/she spends time with
Unexplained bruises, scratches, and cuts
Seems afraid of going to school, riding the bus, walking to school or taking part in organized activities with peers
Takes long or illogical route to school
Seems sad, moody or depressed
Loss of appetite
Trouble sleeping
Anxiety or low self-esteem
Once a parent knows that his or her child is the victim of bullying, it is time to seek professional help.
If it is happening at school, parents must first approach the administration to stop the behavior and notify the parents of the bullies.
School counselors and therapists can help your child deal with the emotional aspects of bullying. If a child has been “cyber-bullied,” more intensive therapy may be needed, as well as significant family support.
A child who has been bullied through technology via social networking (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) or text messages may truly feel that the whole world is laughing… that the whole world is witnessing this denigrating behavior. That humiliation alone can lead to thoughts of suicide.
These new methods of bullying are often easier for bullies to use because of the impersonal nature of technology. It is much easier to leave an anonymous nasty post on a victim’s Facebook page or send an instant message than it is to stand face to face and do it.
The good news is parents can control this form of bullying by limiting the access to the technology, “blocking” the bully (phone, online, etc.), and becoming involved in your child’s online world (monitoring posts, etc.).

Rob Fuller, MSW, P-LCSW, works at Polk Wellness Center offering solution-based therapy for children, teens and adults. For more information, please call 828-894-2222 or visit

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