The Effects of Bullying: What Parents Need to Know
What to Do When You're Being Bullied
Cutting comments and glaring stares can make life miserable for you. Here's how to stop teen bullies and get your power back.
By Regina Boyle Wheeler
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Recent suicides linked to teen bullies have put the spotlight on teenage bullying in communities all across the United States. Many schools, parents, and the police are now taking bullying seriously, no longer brushing it off as "just kids being kids." If you're a girl being bullied, you don't have to take relentless harassment. Silencing teen bullies early can keep the problem from escalating out of control.
Many people picture a typical bully as a playground tough-guy who shakes down smaller bully victims for their lunch money. But for girls, teen bullies are much more subtle than that. Girls tend to engage in what's called "indirect" bullying, says Thomas Tarshis, MD, MPH, a spokesman on bullying for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the director of the Bay Area Children's Association in Cupertino, Calif., a nonprofit agency that provides mental health services for families in need.
Female teen bullies tend to do things like convincing their group to ignore a certain girl or saying harmful, humiliating comments to her face and then exclaiming, "Just kidding!," Dr. Tarshis says. This type of bullying tends to be much more harmful than direct, physical bullying, which is more associated with boys, he adds.
Tarshis also says that girls tend to be more involved in cyber-bullying. Texting nasty messages, sending unflattering photos of someone via cellphone, or using social networking tools like Facebook to harass other girls is common.
Bully Help: What to Do if You're a Bully Victim
Whether the bullying is direct or indirect, it has the same intention: A person or grouprepeatedlyharasses a less powerful bully victim to specifically harm her. There are many theories on why kids bully other kids. Sometimes teen bullies use the behavior as a social-climbing tool - they pick on others in an attempt to become a part of the "most popular" crowd.
Tarshis says putting the brakes on bullying at the first sign of trouble can prevent mental anguish and other problems from occurring later on. If you're being bullied, here's what you can do:
- Speak up for yourself.Tell the bully to stop in a strong voice, but not an aggressive one. Standing up to a bully may be easier said than done, but remember, bullying behavior is not okay. No one deserves to be bullied -youdo not deserve to be bullied. Then, walk away.
- Tell your parents.This may be hard to do as well, but let your parents know what's going on. If you can't bring yourself to do it, confide in another adult you trust, like an aunt or a parent of a friend.
- Keep a record.Keep notes of what was said or done and when it happened. Save text messages or take photos of Facebook comments. Keeping a record of the harassment will help you make your case if you have to bring it to your school's attention or need to bring in the police, Tarshis says.
- Go to school staff.Even if the bullying isn't happening at school, your teachers and principal need to know that you're a bully victim. If things don't get better, the bully's parents may need to be called in to the school.
- Make new friends.Surrounding yourself with a good group of friends can stop bullying or even prevent it from happening in the first place. Explore your interests in school or in your community. Maybe a drama class or volunteering at a hospital is your true passion. If you pursue that, you'll probably make some new friends while you're at it.
Bully Help: What to Do if Bullying Is Severe
Bully victims sometimes try to ride out the harassment in hopes that teen bullies will eventually stop picking on them or find another target, but Tarshis advises against that. He says the longer you're being bullied, the higher the risk of school failure or depression.
In fact, a case of bullying in Massachusetts took a tragic turn in January 2010 when 15-year-old Phoebe Prince committed suicide after weeks of being bullied at school. Five of her tormentors recently pleaded guilty to charges of criminal harassment.
Tarshis warns that if you find yourself skipping school, are very anxious, or are becoming depressed, mental health treatment is probably necessary. If you're having suicidal thoughts, get help right away. One place to turn is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. It's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is free and confidential. Tarshis also stresses that if the bullying is very severe, the police may need to step in. Legal charges can be made against the teen bullies, their parents, or both.
The good news is that bullying doesn't last forever. The behavior usually stops around junior or senior year in high school, Tarshis says.
Video: 10 Things To Do If You Are Getting Bullied
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