Bullying, like other types of abuse, involves the intentional harming of another person. Bullying can be verbal, physical, psychological, or sexual in nature and may occur in person or via telephone, the internet, or other technology. According to Olweus (1993), “a person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself” (p. 9). These negative actions can include everything from punching, slapping, and kicking, to calling someone names, excluding someone from a group, or the rolling of one’s eyes. In the 2009 Rhode Island Youth Risk Behavior Survey, approximately 16% of high school students said they had been bullied in the past year and 35% of middle school students stated that they had been bullied on school property in their lives. Bullying can lead to mental and physical health problems such as anxiety, depression, and suicide, in addition to difficulty in concentration, leading to lower school grades. (more)

What you should do

If you think you or your child is being bullied, contact a school administrator. Under Rhode Island law, schools are required to provide safe environments for students, and if your child does not feel safe, the school must work to change the situation. If you or your child thinks that he or she may be bullying others reinforce that you think that treating others with kindness and respect is important and positively reward your child when he or she engages in this type of behavior.

Talk to your child about being an active bystander. Many bullying incidents have witnesses who stand by and do nothing as the victim is being abused. Discuss with your child the importance of letting others know that bullying behavior is unacceptable. Standing up for those who are being bullied might be tough, but it is one of the most important ways to prevent violence from continuing. This might be in the form of confronting the bully directly (if she or he feels safe doing so), telling an adult that the abuse is happening, or comforting the victim.