“Stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” We are likely all familiar with this line. We also all know that it’s not at all true. There is an epidemic of bullying in today’s culture. The pain caused by words and other’s actions has become a big problem.Stories fill our newsfeeds and TV screens of kids, teens, and even adults subjected to bullying. These cases seem to be becoming more and more brutal and often downright dangerous. Verbal bullying, abuse, and physical bullying have been with us for as long as mankind.
These days individuals also suffer through cyber-bullying. Sometimes even videos of their painful bully encounters are circulated online. No matter the form, it’s painful, destructive, and harmful.
Unfortunately, at one point or another, most of us have been bullied. It has probably even happened many times throughout our lives, and often from the same person multiple times.
The bullying may have come in different forms and at different times, but most people experience it at one point or another. Not only do we walk away feeling hurt – physically and/or emotionally – we walk away feeling demoralized, embarrassed, and small.
What is Bullying and Where Does it Occur?
The CDC defines bullying as: “any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths, who are not siblings or current dating partners, that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.”
Most often we think of it as something that happens among schoolchildren on the playground. We also think of it when we think of hazing among freshmen. Yet it happens in far more places and situations. We’re seeing it increase both in frequency and in location. It happens in schools, yes. It also happens in churches, sports fields, playgrounds, libraries, and anywhere kids congregate.
What people don’t always realize is this isn’t an epidemic only happening to children. Adults receive the brunt of this pain as well. In the office place, on job sites, and even at home in our marriages. Adults are bullying one another just like kids are.
Anytime someone demoralizes, humiliates, makes fun of, teases, picks on, intentionally embarrasses, openly judges, or physically abuses another person, that’s bullying. In the “adult world,” we call it harassment and abuse, not bullying, but it’s the same type of behavior.
Those who have disabilities, special needs, racial and religious minorities, and those with other differences are most likely to be maltreated either online or face-to-face. However, it can happen to anyone.
In this article, we’re primarily going to focus on helping children with it. If you’re an adult who is being harassed, please keep reading. These tips and information will be helpful for you as well.
The Cyberbullying Epidemic
We would be remiss to not talk about the horrible epidemic of cyberbullying. This is one of the main causes of suicide among teens and young adults. We’ve likely all encountered rude “trolls” online who seem to pick on everyone. Or perhaps you’re even Facebook “friends” with someone who tends to demoralize or pick on you for things you post. This is cyberbullying.
It also occurs when people post mean things about others. Chances are you’ll see it occur on your Twitter feed or in a Facebook group today. People saying horrible things to one another that they’d likely never say to their faces. The Internet has a strange effect on people. It’s almost as though we’ve forgotten that at the other end is another living person with feelings.
Cyberbullying is proliferating among tweens, teens, and young adults. It most often happens right under a parent’s nose as well. Parents who had no idea their child was being treated poorly online are shocked to stumble across a post or realize they have a severely depressed child.
The parents of a bully may think they have a polite kid with lots of friends only to find a post they’ve made that’s hurtful and demeaning. It happens with written words, videos, and excluding other kids in online games and activities. It’s almost as though the schoolyard struggles many of us faced as children have moved online to a hidden world.
This is proving to be detrimental in countless cases. On the schoolyard, a teacher would eventually notice. On the schoolyard, another student might tattle or intervene. A parent could show up, an older student could get involved, or the recess bell would ring and it would end, for the time being, at least.
The Internet has become so massive and impossible to manage that cyberbullying can go completely unnoticed through private messages, busy forums, and overlooked comments or videos.
Programs for bullying prevention are being put into place worldwide. Zero tolerance policies have been enacted as well as other programs to help put an end to this problem.
Signs of Bullying to Watch For
Parents are often surprised to find out their children were being bullied or were a bully themselves. Signs we might ignore in isolation may be a warning sign that something is going on when we start to connect the dots.
Remember it’s not uncommon for a kid who is being bullied to bully others, in turn. The picked-on child often acts out and starts to pick on others. You may see signs from both of these lists that need to be addressed.
Signs of a child who mightbe the bully:
Changes in friend groups: Frequently changing who they hang out with or the types of kids who come around or engaging in friendships with those who are known to be bullies.
Coming home with new belongings or extra money: Bullies often steal or force items and money away from other kids. This is often the first warning sign that something is going on.
Injuries, bruises, and wounds
Aggression, anger outbursts, and/or rage
Legal trouble: This often comes with a lack of taking responsibility for the trouble caused
Frequent visits to the principal’s office
Engaging in risky or dangerous behavior
It may feel awkward or difficult to confront a child who you think is hurting others. Enlisting the help of a counselor may be helpful to navigate this difficult path.
Signs of a child who is being bullied:
- Change in appetite
- Lack of desire to attend school or extracurricular activities: This is especially common if the child used to enjoy school or the activity.
- Avoiding social situations
- Avoidance of specific kids and/or locations
- Changes in friends: Frequently changing groups of friends or suddenly not spending time with the same friend group
- Tears or signs of anxiety at drop-off
- Increase in injuries
- Frequent headaches, illness, upset stomach, or faking any of these symptoms
- Belongings going missing
- Sleep changes such as insomnia, oversleeping, or nightmares
- Declining grades or trouble in classes
- Negative self-talk or repeating negative phrases about themselves
- Substance abuse
In some cases, severe depression, self-harm, or even suicidal tendencies will develop as well. Please seek help immediately I these present themselves.
Resources to Help with Signs of Bullying
Counseling for KidsA counselor can play a key part in helping children heal, both the bully and those who were bullied. Counseling will help children process their feelings and work through the trauma. For kids who were the bully, it will help them to identify and work through what was causing them to act out in that way. Sometimes families, other students, or other children/adults may also be involved in a child’s counseling.
If your child is being bullied or is a bully, please reach out. Child counseling has proven to be helpful to change negative behaviors and heal trauma. This is not something to take lightly and can have lifelong effects. We’re here to come alongside your child and your family.
Turning to God
Hopefully, it does not feel trite to suggest turning to God. It can be helpful to remember the suffering Jesus experienced on earth. He was abused, mocked, and demoralized. He was picked on and embarrassed.
By today’s standards, we would say that Jesus was bullied. Jesus understands our suffering and pain. It breaks his heart and it breaks God’s heart. Jesus is near to us in our pain and intimately knows what it’s like to be betrayed by people.
As we recover from the pain, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit with us. Jesus sends us that spirit to comfort us and help us to heal. We are wrapped in God’s all-encompassing love as every tear we cry is captured in a bottle. God sees every painful word, every physical abuse, every horrible thing typed about us on a computer screen and is grieved by it.
Turn to God with your pain. Allow God to remind you of your purpose, value, and worth. See yourself as a precious and beloved child of God with a heavenly parent who holds you in your pain.
Surround yourself by the people God placed in your life who will speak life to you. Allow them to speak words of truth into your life of your value, character, purpose, and belonging here in God’s kingdom.
A good Christian counselor can help you to do this as well. Counselors can speak truth into our hearts and help us see through God’s eyes.
This type of victimization can be deeply painful, especially when it has progressed for many years. Healing may take time but it is possible and worth the effort.
“Tears”, Courtesy of Kat J, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hangin’ Out”, Courtesy of Tim Mossholder, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “School”, Courtesy of Santi Vedri, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching Videos”, Courtesy of John Schnobrich, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.