Bullying is a growing concern across America. Many children and teens commit suicide needlessly each year due to the fact they are being tormented for no reason other than there are those who are allowed to get by with this type of behavior. We all need to be more aware of warning signs to look for and provide help to those in need. The following information has been gathered from local recent media sources and has the latest up to date facts and what signs of bullying can be exhibited in children and teenagers. This is something we can all help prevent as a community and we are asking for everyone to be more aware of these types of situations. I would like to point out that not all bullying is physical, we have had situations in our own county where young people have tried to harm themselves over bullying and cyberbullying, which is done over cell phones and computers. Bullying is a senseless crime that has no purpose or place in our county.

Complaints about headaches or stomachaches This is the easiest way for kids to justify not going to school.The symptoms could be real (caused by anxiety or injury) or just an excuse to avoid a potential encounter. According to the 2011 Indicators of School Crime and Safety, a joint publication by the U.S. Depts. of Justice and Education, five percent of students ages 12 through 18 reported missing a school activity or staying home because they feared being harmed by another student. Parents should rule out legitimate medical concerns, especially if the complaints continue or if the child seems to be experiencing real pain.  Kids who are too embarrassed to talk about bullying with their parents are sometimes willing to talk it out with a doctor.

Unexplainable injuries, from others or self The School Crime and Safety report says 28 percent of American adolescents were bullied in 2009. Of those, almost one-tenth said they were pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on. Parents should look for bruises, cuts or scratches that are not consistent with sports or physical activity.  Parents should also look for signs of self-harm. A 2012 study from King’s College in London, published in the British Medical Journal, found that bullied children engaged in more self-destructive behavior than children who were not bullied: cutting arms, pulling out clumps of hair, head-banging walls and attempting suicide. The same study said self-harm was higher among children with complicating factors, such as family history of attempted suicide, mental health issues or physical abuse.

Changes in attitude, behavior and achievement at school Illogical or sudden changes related to school — such as skipping classes, missing the bus and asking for a ride instead, walking a different route or losing interest in grades — might be another sign. A 2010 UCLA study that appeared in the Journal of Early Adolescence asked 2,300 middle schoolers if they’d been bullied, using a 4 point scale of increasing intensity.  Researchers found that a 1 point increase on that scale could result in a drastic 1.5 point decrease in GPA in one academic subject. Some examples are: “If everyone around them is getting their (driving) learner’s permit and your kid has no interest; if your kid doesn’t want to go to dances; if your kid is backpedaling and it’s out of character, it could be a symptom of bullying.”

Lost or damaged property

Lost valuables such as electronics, toys, jewelry, food and money could be associated with bullying, even though the intentional destruction of property, according to the School Crime and Safety report, is actually the least common form of bullying, behind name-calling, spreading rumors, physical harm, threats and exclusion from social activities. But it still happens. While teens often misplace their things, the telling clue for a parent worried concerned about a potential bullying situation, might be if the child doesn’t not know where it went, or tries to avoid talking about it.

Changes with friends and social circles

Watch out if your child suddenly changes social circles, stops being invited to things, or seems withdrawn from friends they used to be close with. Bullying is often about isolating the victim. And some bullies are likely to attack relationships. Kids can be bullied and still have friends, and many adolescents experiment with new roles and relationships. One other thing parents might look out for is if other adults in the same school, class or program are talking about bullying. It might signal a lack of supervision or a bully who is getting away with something.

Changes in sleeping or eating habits

If a kid is seriously being targeted by a bully, their nervous system is in overdrive. They’re in the fight-or-flight response mode. They’re in a stressed-out state. And that could affect basic bodily functions like sleeping and eating. Children might avoid the lunchroom during the school day, then come home ravenous and binge. That could lead to stomach cramps.  Other clues might be evidence of eating disorders or a large amount of short-term weight gain or loss, caused by stress. Anxiety can also keep children up at night or cause bad dreams.

Reluctance/avoidance/inability to talk about it The School Crime and Safety report found that students who were bullied notified an adult of the situation only 36 percent of the time. Perhaps predictably, adults become involved less and less as the child gets older. Girls tend to report bullying more than boys do. Kids might not want the “tattletale” label or they might fear further backlash from the bully.  Maybe the bullying is too humiliating or painful or painful to talk about, such as an embarrassing picture or rumor being sent to classmates’ cellphones. Or it could simply be a matter of the child not understanding that what’s happening is wrong.

Expressing no interest in anything

Teenagers can be impulsive. It’s not uncommon for them to shift from interest to interest and social group to social group. It’s also quite normal for teenagers to express dramatic feelings of displeasure or disinterest. However, one specific pattern to look for might be if the child turns from one interest to no interest to general displeasure or apathy toward anything and everything. It is a big red flag if the child seems to be abandoning an activity they used to enjoy.

Intense feelings of hopelessness, shame and depression Teenagers are trying out independence, and might want to handle bullying on their own. They might feel like they’ve tried everything and nothing’s going to change. At that point, the more intense, darker feelings make sense, and it’s not out of the question for really destructive behaviors to begin. Research strongly supports the view that all forms of bullying and peer victimization are clear risk factors for depression and suicidal thinking,” Richard Lieberman and Katherine Cowan wrote in “Bullying and Youth Suicide,” a 2011 report created in collaboration with the National Association of School Psychologists. “Certain populations of students are especially vulnerable to developing suicidal ideation and behaviors as a result of bullying: students who are cyberbullied; students with disabilities and mental health problems; and students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning.”

Tendency to solve problems with conflict and violence One of the biggest signs your child might be a bully is an inability to accept responsibility or solve problems effectively. They might blame others for things that are going on, general things like playing a card game, kids might have a hard time accepting that they’re not winning.  Bullies can be aggressive (passive-aggressive counts, too), talk trash or try to dominate and control.Some consider adolescent bullying a “gateway” criminal behavior. According to the National Education Association’s position statement on Bullying and Harassment, “Boys identified as bullies in grades six through nine had one criminal conviction by age 24. Forty percent of those identified had three or more arrests by age 30. Bullies are at even greater risk of suicide than their targets. Bullies often grow up to perpetuate family violence.”

Lack of empathy toward students who are bullied Rapid advances in technology have hurt society as a whole. “When you meet someone face to face, you get a lot of nonverbal feedback right away. You hear their voice, their inflection; you see their body language, and you understand how they’re feeling. But you don’t get that feedback with electronic communication.”Many bullies simply don’t understand how much they’re hurting others. Online, especially, they act recklessly and without remorse because they’re not able to see immediately that their behavior is wrong. They’re missing empathy in their social development

Sexual harassment or homophobic teasing
In a 2012 report in the Journal of Adolescent Health, educational psychologists from the University of Illinois found a strong overlap between bullying, homophobic teasing and sexual violence among middle school students. Of the bully perpetrators, about a third of the boys and a fifth of the girls said they had made sexual comments to other students or had participated in homophobic teasing. Five percent of boys and seven percent of girls said they had spread sexual rumors.The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network reported in its 2011 National School Climate Survey that eight out of 10 LGBT students experienced verbal harassment because of their sexual orientation. But, among the key findings, “for the first time (in over a decade) the 2011 survey shows a significant decrease in victimization based on sexual orientation.”

Problems at school: fights, detention, trouble
According to the 2011 National Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 23 percent of public schools reported that bullying occurred among students on a daily or weekly basis. It is by far the biggest school discipline problem in the U.S. today. Many schools now have specific anti-bullying or “safe and civil environment” language as part of their rules of conduct.  Administrators, teachers and parents are increasingly on the lookout for warning signs. Perhaps it’s no surprise that bullies get in trouble more.  A 2003 report in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine studied more than 15,000 students grades 6 through10 and found that bullies were more likely to bring weapons to school, get in at least four fights a year, and be injured in a fight — all behaviors that are sure to lead to the principal’s office.

Overly competitive and worried about reputation or popularity
It is believed that many students are involved in “social combat” — “a constant verbal, physical and cyber fight to the top of the school social hierarchy.”  Kids are caught up in patterns of cruelty and aggression that have to do with jockeying for status. One of the biggest misconceptions about bullying is that bullies and victims are defined roles. Instead, in many cases, they can be the same person.


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