Experts today claim that bullying is at an all-time high, and they hold the interconnectivity of social media and the internet largely responsible for this epidemic. Additionally, it seems school districts are having a difficult time addressing bullying appropriately. This has led some states to take tougher stances on bullying as children are now even dying because the trauma of bullying has been so great.
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Virginia, for example, just recently enacted legislation that would require schools to have specific timelines and protocol for notifying parents about bullying issues. Many parents claim that they aren't even aware anything is happening, despite the fact that the school knew of incidents. This type of legislation will work to ensure parents are aware of any happenings within five school days.
Now, if you ask me - a former teacher who sadly saw bullying go unaddressed and children bullied with few-to-no consequences, I don't think that's good enough. When a child lets a trusted school official know they are being bullied, or the official knows, I don't see any reason whatsoever the parent is not alerted immediately, so as to be able to help their child cope and recover from the trauma. The sooner situations are nipped in the bud, the better. I fear that even five days may be too long for a child to have any relief or resolution if she or he is bullied.
It's important that we are vigilant with our children when it comes to what bullying looks like and what the symptoms your child may be bullied look like. Bullying can be physical (hitting, kicking, tripping or destroying property); verbal (teasing, name-calling, inappropriate comments and taunting); social or psychological (rumor spreading, public embarrassment, purposed exclusions from common groups); or electronic (cyber bullying through email, messaging, social media, or other websites).
If your child begins to withdraw from activities and situations she or he is typically engaged in, you may want to look into the reasoning. When your child starts saying he doesn't want to go to school anymore or she doesn't talk as much as she used to, you should be concerned that something may be affecting her. Particularly if she or he doesn't talk to friends as much, either during or after school, or you begin seeing signs of depression or anxiety, you should contact a licensed counselor so that you can help get to the bottom of the reasoning why.
If bullying is found to be the culprit, there are some strategies you can also employ to help empower your child. Most important, take the issue to the school and insist the matter is dealt with IMMEDIATELY. Do not accept, "We have to be careful with the other child's privacy," or "We'll address it, and get back to you." because I can tell you as an educator, those are blow-offs. I'm all about protecting the privacy of all children, but when one child is invading the safety and rights of another, it is the responsibility of the adults in charge to stop it and protect them both.
Go as high as you need within the system, and remember - the media can be your best friend in situations where the school may be dragging its feet in dealing with it.
Related: Studies Suggest Children Experience Bullying More by Their Friends
As well, empower your child. Role-play with your child to let them know how they could deal with bullying should it come up, and let them know that they can speak up for themselves and others who are being bullied. Make sure they know you are on their side, and though you don't advocate the provoking of anything, your child has a right to defend him or herself with words (and yes, sometimes actions if they are being beaten) if the adults in charge won't do it. I always told my students to be champions for the underdogs, but when they are the underdog? It's okay for them to champion for themselves.
Take your child to licensed specialists. There is no shame in doing so, and your child will feel like she has an arsenal of people on her side helping her defend against the bullying. There is strength in numbers, and when your child feels part of a large number dedicated to her protection? She'll hopefully gain courage that will greatly benefit her as an adult.
There are also several organizations online that you can contact to get ways to stop bullies in their tracks, or at the very least, stop the bullying that is happening to your child. StompOutBullying is a great resource for you and your child.
Bullies may be inevitable, but teaching your child how to defend against them is a lifetime skill that creates a champion against bullies, and keeps them safe and empowered in the process.