September 10, 2009

Bullying from the Schoolyard to Cyberspace

Doyle, RondiBy Rondi Doyle
Director of Community Relations
Child Abuse Council

School is back in session, and so are all the parental worries that come along with it. Did she pack her lunch? Is he doing okay in math class? Is she getting along with the other students? These are all good questions to ask at the family dinner table, but even if your child answers yes to all the above questions, you might not want to relax just yet.

Many parents are unaware of incidents of bullying, yet recent research estimates that somewhere between 15-25% of American students are bullied with some frequency. Bullying can range from the traditional eye-blacking to newer, more insidious methods of cruelty such as cyber-bullying, in which children use the anonymity of the internet as a mask while spreading unkind rumors and tarnishing reputations. Both sexes can engage in either type of bullying, but it is usually the case that boys are more physical, where as girls are more psychological and subversive.

Now, you might find yourself feeling a little unconcerned. You may have a good relationship with your child, with no reason to suspect that anything is wrong. Besides, if something was happening, your son or daughter would tell you… right? Be weary. Incidents of bullying often fly under parental radar. This is because bullying often occurs in places that are not readily supervised by adults. The teachers may be just as clueless as the parents.

What’s worse is that students who are bullied often do not report the incident. They may fear retaliation from those doing the bullying, and in continued cases, they may begin to believe that they deserve the physical or emotional mistreatment, especially if they are different from the majority of the other children.

The world is not perfect. Those who are different, especially those with few or no friends, are especially susceptible to bullying because they make easy targets. Remember what your dad used to tell you about how bullies hate being stood up to? There’s a measure of truth to it. A bully will only strike when he or she recognizes a degree of weakness, particularly aloneness. The cruel acts are not random. Like a petty criminal, a bully will choose to engage only in those acts he thinks he can get away with. They shop, so to speak, for their victims.

That said, this information is not meant to persuade you to change your child to blend seamlessly into a crowd. Instead, it is meant to call your attention to a serious issue in today’s schools. Don’t let bullying go on unhindered. Make sure your child knows what to do if they are being bullied. Here are a few quick and helpful hints:

  • Make sure your child knows that it is okay to tell an adult they are being bullied. Emphasize the fact that this is not “tattling.” Tattling is a petty way to get someone else into trouble. If their own health and well being is at risk, telling an adult is crucial.
  • Tell them to try their best not to show anger or fear. Bullies thrive off these emotions. Don’t give them what they want.
  • Use the buddy system. Don’t go to the bathroom or locker room alone.
  • Sit near the front, whether on the bus or in class. Being close to staff will help deter bullies.

For more helpful tips and useful information, visit

For more information about the Child Abuse Council’s prevention and education programs, you can visit us at, or contact me at

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