The 4 Types of Bullying Parents Need to Know About

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PMHNP-BC on June 1, 2016Written by Valencia Higuera on June 1, 2016
Types of bullying

No child deserves to be bullied. When you send your children to school, you expect them to get an education in a safe environment. Unfortunately, schools, neighborhoods, and playgrounds are not always a safe haven. Some children become victims of bullying.

Bullying is aggressive behavior that makes another child uncomfortable or scared. When you hear the word bullying, you might think of physical contact. But there are different types of bullying. It’s important that you and your children learn how to recognize the signs of each.

1. Physical bullying

Physical bullying is when a bully comes in contact with your child. The bully may provoke a fight, which can involve:

  • hitting
  • slapping
  • kicking
  • punching

Physical bullying can also take other forms. As your child walks or runs, bullies may purposely stick out their foot to intentionally trip and make your child fall to the ground. Or the bully might pinch or push your child to cause physical harm.

2. Verbal bullying

Someone can also bully your children without laying a finger on them. In the case of verbal bullying, the bully doesn’t go as far as pushing or hitting your child. Rather, the bully resorts to other methods of intimidation. They use their words to hurt others.

Your child may be called hurtful names, teased, or insulted. The bully may make a homophobic or racist remark to your child. This is a form of verbal abuse and it’s unacceptable.

3. Cyberbullying

Modern technology has given birth to a new method of bullying. If your children have social media accounts like Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, they may become a victim of cyberbullying. Some bullies use these platforms to hurt other children.

Internet bullies use technology to post cruel remarks or embarrassing pictures of other children to humiliate them. Unfortunately, this type of bullying doesn’t stop at the end of the school day or once a victim returns home. Cyberbullies also text and email their targets. As a result, your child may endure bullying 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

4. Social and emotional bullying

This type of bully wants to hurt your child’s reputation and cause emotional damage. The bully may spread rumors about your child, play mean jokes, or convince others not to socialize with your child.

The aim is to break your child’s self-esteem and confidence, and the bully isn’t satisfied until the victim feels isolated and rejected. As a result, your child may experience depression and social anxiety. Interestingly, this type of bullying is more common among girls.

How to spot signs of bullying

If your children are being bullied at school, in the neighborhood, or at a playground, they may not talk about the problem. But you can identify signs of bullying. For example:

  • mood swings
  • social isolation
  • fighting with siblings
  • unexplained crying or anger
  • a change in sleep or eating pattern
  • your child doesn’t want to go to school or outside to play
  • your child doesn’t want to ride the school bus
  • sudden drop in grades

Bullying is a serious problem and shouldn't be ignored. The effects can be long-lasting and cause emotional and behavioral problems. These problems include:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • lower self-esteem
  • increased aggression

Depending on the severity of bullying, it can lead to suicide. If you suspect that your child is being bullied, it's important to take immediate action.

What can parents do?

It might be difficult for your children to talk about bullying. To start a conversation, find an appropriate time to talk with them alone. You can start by asking about their day, and then ask if there's anything they need to talk about.

If you’ve noticed a change in a child's behavior, mention what you’ve noticed. Encourage your child to let you know if there's a problem at school or with friends. If possible, ask open-ended questions so your child can provide more than a yes or no answer. Listen as your child speaks and don't interrupt. Let your child know that what is happening is not their fault, and they will not be in trouble.

Strategies for dealing with bullying

If your child is having a problem with bullying, offer strategies for dealing with the bully, such as walking away from a fight. Or in the case of cyberbullying, you can block the person who sends messages through text or social media.

With verbal or emotional bullying, a technique called fogging might get the bully off your child’s back. With fogging, your child deflects hostile remarks by acknowledging a bully’s words without getting upset or defensive. Here are examples:

Bully: How does it feel to be a loser?
Your child: It doesn’t bother me.

Bully: Nobody likes you.
Your child: That’s your opinion, why do you care anyway?

Bully: Your shoes are old and ugly.
Your child: Yeah, it’s probably time for a new pair.

The bottom line is that a bully seeks a certain reaction from their victims. And if they don’t get this reaction, they may move on.

Sometimes, your children might be able to avoid places and situations where bullying occurs. But they can’t avoid school. Therefore, you may need to get your child's school involved. Some schools have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying.

Notify your child's teacher of bullying. Provide the name of the bully and provide details about the type of bullying. If this doesn’t fix the problem, make the school’s principal aware of the problem. In the case of cyberbullying, take screenshots or show copies of emails or text messages as proof of bullying.

Next steps

Bullying is a crime when it involves:

  • physical violence
  • threats
  • stalking
  • hate crimes
  • child pornography
  • a violation of privacy

Talking to a bully’s parents or reporting bullying to your child's teacher or school may solve the problem. Make sure you follow up with your child to see if the situation has improved.

If the problem doesn’t improve or worsens, and if you feel your child isn’t safe, you can report bullying to the police or contact the school’s superintendent. 

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