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Teen Health 411

Bullying and Teens

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Like everything else in our culture, bullying has gotten “extreme.” What used to be considered almost a normal part of growing up has become the focus of many discussions between parents as well as elementary and middle school “character building” classes. More than 60% of students report being bullied in national health surveys and about 20% report bullying people. Although bullying tends to peak in 6th grade, high school students can also experience it.

Bullying can be verbal, physical, mental, and Internet-based. It happens between boys and girls of all ages and in every context of their lives. Bullying can include any of a number of behaviors:
• Hitting
• Teasing or taunting
• Name-calling
• Telling jokes
• Giggling or whispering
• Rumor-spreading
• Sending fake emails
• Sharing pictures on the Internet
• Stealing
• Rejection
• Exclusion

The consequences of bullying are very serious. Both teens who are being bullied and doing the bullying experience stress, cannot learn well, may have emotional or physical symptoms that limit school attendance, and will not do as well socially. Many teens who are bullied also experience violent thoughts of retaliation and may resort to violence to cope with the problem.

Ways to combat some of the consequences of teen bullying include becoming involved in activities that have purpose, build self-esteem, develop skills, and include other teens that share characteristics or interests. Every teen needs to feel good about who they are – it will give them strength to combat the bullying or decide they do not want to be a bully.

What should you do if you child is bullied?
• Do not criticize or blame your child – acknowledge that everyone is a target at some point in their lives – whether it is for size, smarts, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social status, where they live, or who their friends are
• Be empathetic and ask what they have already tried to do and how each attempt worked
• Do not encourage fighting back
• Encourage your child to stay with people and avoid the bully
• Encourage your child to ask for help from a teacher, principal, or counselor
• If nothing the teen does works, then you should call the school and discuss the situation with the administration. Encourage the administration to make the entire school a ”bully-free zone” and encourage adults witnessing any form of bullying to stop it.

Resources

Healtlhline for more information on bullying

We're Talking, Too: Preteen Health Bullying Modules for teachers of 4th and 5th grade

We're Talking Teen Health Information and resources for teens.



Photo credit: Jackie O
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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