Pediatrician Intuition – What your pediatrician wants you to know
By Whitney Casares, M.D., M.P.H.
This spring the movie, “Bully’ hit theaters in many states, highlighting this important issue in the United States. It’s a national problem and, as kids become more comfortable and independent with technology, avenues for bullying become even more abundant. Over 13 million kids will be bullied this year in the U.S. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 5 high school students have experienced bullying.
It can be hard for adults and kids alike to take a stand against bullying for a number of reasons. Many times, we have an inaccurate perception that “kids will be kids” and “junior high and high school are rough years for everyone – bulling is just a part of it.” Also, most people don’t know what to do if they see someone being bullied. They fail to intervene because they’re scared of retaliation against themselves or their family. Even more disheartening, bullying can feel like a huge issue beyond the efforts of one person fighting back. As a result, many victims of bullying go unnoticed or are ignored until their victimization ends in tragedy. It doesn’t have to be this way for our youth, though. We can, as a community, fight bullying in our local schools, across our webpages and in our neighborhoods.
Knowing the facts is a start:
Stopbullying.gov defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” There are three types of bullying: social, physical or verbal. Though physical bullying often receives the most media attention, social and verbal bullying can be just as or more scarring and dangerous.
There are some risk factors specialists have identified that make children more likely to be bullied. They can be:
- Unpopular or more private with few friends
- Seen as different from other kids, like being a new student, being under or
- overweight, wearing different clothes, wearing glasses or having low socioeconomic status
- Anxious, depressed or with lower self-esteem
- Seen as vulnerable or unable to protect themselves
Likewise, children who have these characteristics are more likely to bully others:
- See violence positively
- Are friends with bullies
- Have a low view of others
- Easily become frustrated or aggressive
- Have less family involvement
Taking a stand is the next step:
- Talk to your kids about bullying. Teach them what it means to bully and how to recognize it. Talk with them about standing up for others who are being bullied. Go to stopbullying.gov for conversation ideas. Explain how to find help for those being bullied that they can’t help themselves.
- Model kindness and respect. Help kids learn that bullying is wrong by showing them with your own actions toward others.
- Help kids learn how to respect themselves. Encourage them to find activities and hobbies they’re good at and stand by them as they try new things they’re not good at to build confidence.
- Advocate for victims of bullying in your child’s school and in your neighborhood.
Bullying can seem impossible to stop. It can also seem like someone else’s problem. Creating a culture of respect where children are able to attend school, live in neighborhoods and develop friendships without fear is everyone’s responsibility. Together, we can work to stop the bullying that occurs everyday around us.
About the blog
This blog is written by our providers. It is not intended to replace any medical advice, but rather to share our thoughts on a variety of topics we encounter daily as primary care pediatricians in the Portland area. Each entry’s author is named under its title. This content is not based on any commercial product or service, nor is it a recommendation of such. Opinions expressed are our own and are not influenced by any form of compensation.