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Anyone can be a victim of bullying, however some children are at a higher risk of being bullied than others. Children that are less popular and have fewer friends tend to be victims of bullying while children that are popular are more likely to be bullies. Other risk factors associated with being bullied include:
However, having any of these characteristics does not automatically mean that a child will be bullied.
Bullying affects both the victim and bystanders. Victims of bullying are at risk of having psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, eating disorders and substance abuse. Worsening feelings of isolation and depression can contribute to suicidal behavior and other forms of self-harm.
Bullying can have serious negative effects on bystanders and witnesses as well. They learn to perceive their school or environment as unsafe, may also develop anxiety or depression from witnessing it and may start to avoid school.
It is helpful to know what signs to look for if you suspect your child may be a victim of bullying. Some warning signs include:
Be aware that sometimes a child may not show any sign that they are being bullied. To stay tuned in to what is going with your child in school, talk to them regularly. Be interested in their school day and ask them specific questions about bullying. E.g. “Are there mean kids in your class? Who do they tend to pick on? Is anyone being mean to you?”
Estimates vary on the percentage of students who have been victims of bullying. However, there is no doubt that the statistics are sobering.
Unlike the occasional argument, shouting match or scuffle, bullying happens repeatedly, it is not an isolated event. It involves a physical or social power imbalance between two people or two groups, with the perpetrator(s) having more power and the victim(s) having less. It also involves one person trying to intentionally harm the other. It can be physical (shoving, punching, kicking) or verbal (name-calling, gossiping, spreading rumors), and it can also happen through social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
While there is no way to guarantee that your child will never be bullied (or be a bully), some measures have proven very effective in reducing bullying on a broader scale:
Bullying can have long-lasting social, psychological and health effects on victims. Children who experience bullying continuously are at greater risk for:
The good news is that supportive relationships with families, peers and mentors can make a difference and mitigate the negative effects of bullying (American Psychological Association).
A state-wide and national focus on identifying, addressing and preventing bullying means that children who are being victimized—or are bullies themselves— now have several options for getting help.
Below is a list of helpful links to additional resources if you or someone you know is a victim of bullying
Standard Disclaimer: These links are provided for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by Boston Children’s Hospital of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual. Boston Children’s Hospital bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of these external sites.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”