Tracey Fejt is the Injury Prevention coordinator at Cardon Children's Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.
Question: I think my child may be get bullied at school. What can I do?
Answer: Every child, no matter what their size, could potentially experience bullying in their life.
However, new studies show that children who are overweight are 60 percent more likely to be bullied by their peers.
Some facts you might not know:
- Overweight boys are more likely to be victims of physical bullying and are more likely to become perpetrators of bullying other overweight peers.
Girls, boys, overweight, underweight -- regardless of the reason for the bullying, parents, educators, friends and peers must be vigilant to stop bullying in its early stages.
One of the best ways to stop bullying is to be aware. Talk with your children regularly about their time at school. Ask about their friends, their classes, their day-to-day activities.
Notice their body language when they answer and be aware of changes in mood or activities, such as depression, or wanting to stay home from school or games.
Bullying can also lead to physical symptoms, such as abdominal pain, vomiting before school or bed wetting. These can all be warning signs of bullying.
- Bullying escalates when not caught. Name calling moves to profanities, to daily confrontation and eventually physical violence.
Once a bully has moved from verbal abuse to physical abuse, children are less likely to report it but more likely to move toward an equal or worse form of “revenge”. In fact, more than 80 percent of teenagers say revenge as a direct result of bullying is the leading cause of school violence.
Children who have been bullied carry it with them long after school is over.
Lower self-esteem, irregular eating behaviors, increased risk of depression, and ongoing victimization with a difficulty in forming adult relationships, all have shown to be results of early childhood bullying.
- Not all bullying is face-to-face.
Cyber bullying, such as bullying through email, texting, social networks, chat rooms or online activities, has grown exponentially in the past three years, with more than 75 percent of students reporting some harassment by a cyber bully.
How to stop cyber bullying?
Regularly check your child’s phone and text usage for messaging that is negative or violent. Keep all online interaction in public areas – no computers in the bedroom and talk to your children about online activities.
The key answer to ending this cycle of bullying and violence is vigilance and communication. You must talk with your children, their teachers, their peers—be a part of their lives and activities so you can recognize signs of distress and act immediately.
Be proactive in being a part of your children's lives to keep them on a happy and healthy track to adulthood.
Reviewed October 2010