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Is Your Child Being Bullied?
By Julie A. Johnson

Bullying is in the news again as a fifteen year old commits suicide because classmates have tormented her endlessly. Unfortunately, bullying is a growing problem in the United States today, and the problem seems to be getting worse. Recently we have heard of students being harassed, being burned, and being physically abused by peers. Bullying is a widespread problem in the United States.

On the average school day 25% of students in the United States are victimized by bullies. Each day, according to the National Association of School Psychologists, as many as 160,000 children stay home from school because they are afraid of being bullied by classmates. One child in ten is bullied on a regular basis, and when the abuse happens again and again, it affects school attendance. Bullying is a significant problem.

What is bullying?  Although bullying is an activity that has always seemed to be present in our society, authorities sometimes have a difficult time determining whether bullying has actually occurred. Basically,there are two types of bullying: direct and indirect. Direct bullying involves physical actions which may include physical violence, taunting or teasing, and threatening the victim. Physical violence may include kicking, punching, hair pulling, or as described recently in the news -- setting someone on fire.Indirect bullying occurs when the bully attempts to socially isolate the victim. Indirect bullying happens when the bully verbally and emotionally intimidates the victim. We see verbal bullying happen when there is name calling, sexist remarks and language, gossiping, racist slurs, unwanted phone calls or text messages, and threats. These communications may be anonymous, or not.
Most common among girls, emotional intimidation is a much more subtle form of bullying and diminishes a child's self esteem through isolation and exclusion. Emotional intimidation may include facial expressions and body language, whispering, snickering and note-writing. This form of bullying is most common during the middle school years.

Effects of Bullying:  Sometime devastating and long-lasting, the effects of bullying can scar your child. Bullying can isolate your child from peers, and in turn, affect your child's sense of security and well being. Bullying can also affect academic performance.Bullying may affect your child both mentally and physically. Because bullying increases stress, the victim is affected mentally. The victim may experience physical problems also due to stress. Increased headaches and stomachaches are not uncommon problems associated with bullying. In extreme cases, especially among girls, social anxieties may lead to to other problems including anorexia, bulimia, or even excessive exercising.Bullying takes its toll on the victim, so it's important to recognize signs that your child may be bullied at school. It is up to you to recognize the signs because usually children are hesitant about seeking adult intervention because they are afraid of further abuse.
Here are some important signs to look for:

Abrupt changes in behavior.
At school
: a sudden drop in grades or lack of interest in school. At school the child may wish to aviod lunch, the playground, or going to the bathroom because these are areas where abuse usually takes place. The child may try to avoid going to school by faking illness to avoid the bullying. The child may start asking for rides to school so s/he can avoid waiting at the bus stop or riding the bus.

At home: Your child may come home with bruises or loses money with no plausible explanation. S/he may experience obvious signs of stress and have problems with sleeping. After receiving an email or phone, the child may appear frightened, sad, or even angry. A change in personality, becoming more clingy, or withdrawing from family and friends, could be a sign of bullying. If s/he talks about changing schools, running away or moving, a parent should take note.If you suspect bullying may be a problem for your child, don't pressure him or her for information. Remind your child you are there to listen if there is a problem. Ask about related topics -- classes, friends, activities -- you may discover helpful information. Investigate further by asking friends, other parents, and school officials. Protect your child and seek help from authorities if you suspect a problem.

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