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Bullying comes in many forms

Bullying comes in many forms
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Today, bullying goes beyond the playground push or punch, as bullies use taunts and teasing—and online tactics—to attack their victims. But drawing the line between a little razzing between classmates and more damaging bullying can be tricky. Generally, bullying is considered aggressive behaviour that keeps happening, where the victim feels like the bully has more power than he or she does. And contrary to popular belief, it has nothing to do with anger. “It’s about contempt—a powerful feeling of dislike towards someone considered to be worthless, inferior, or undeserving of respect,” says parenting expert Barbara Coloroso, author of The Bully, the Bullied and the Not-so-Innocent Bystander. According to Coloroso, bullies often feel a sense of entitlement and are intolerant of differences in others.

Research shows that one in four students reported being bullied—with 79 per cent reporting verbal harassment, and half saying they felt they were harassed or excluded socially, according to a survey by the student-focused non-profit group YouthTruth. And bullying victims face a number of long-term consequences, including an increased risk of suicide and poorer overall health into adulthood, according to research published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. (If you or someone you know has had thoughts of self-harm or suicide, visit lifeline.org.au or call their hotline on 13 11 14 in Australia, or in New Zealand, visit lifeline.org.nz or call 0800 LIFELINE (0800 543 354) or text HELP (4357) for free support.) Learn more about the damage sibling bullying can do.

Unexplained injuries

Unexplained injuries
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Verbal taunts and social bullying may be the most common, but physical bullying still happens—and 29 per cent of teens say they’ve encountered it, according to the YouthTruth Survey. If your child comes home with bruises, cuts, scratches, or other injuries, “don’t tell your child to fight back,” says Coloroso. “Remind them that it’s not their fault, and report the bullying to school personnel.” Parents, learn how to stop sibling rivalry—which can lead to bullying—before it starts.

This story about how siblings put aside their differences is truly inspiring.

Using electronic devices less—or more—than usual

Using electronic devices less—or more—than usual
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If your child used to be glued to her smartphone, and now has it shut down constantly—or if your child seems to be anxiously checking the internet, it might be a sign that they’re one of the 36.5 per cent of children who reported being cyberbullied, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center. If you suspect your child might be at risk of online bullying, teach them this important acronym: SCBT, says Coloroso. SCBT stands for:

Stop. Don’t respond.

Copy. Make copies of all messages and pictures, and save mobile phone text and voice messages.

Block or filter communications through IM contact list, email, or social media apps.

Tell a trusted adult.

A drop in grades

A drop in grades
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If your straight-A student is suddenly failing classes, bullying could be playing a role—in fact, a study published in the Journal of Early Adolescence found that bullying could account for more than a full letter grade drop in achievement among bullying victims.

Different sleeping patterns

Different sleeping patterns
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Bullying victims may experience depression or anxiety, which can take a toll on their sleeping habits along with their mental health, warns Coloroso. If your child’s sleep pattern changes—whether they develop insomnia or begin spending more and more time in bed—that could be a red flag that they’re being bullied, she says. Frequent nightmares could also be a sign of bullying.

Find out whether bullying can lead to social phobias.

A shift in eating habits

A shift in eating habits
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A bullied child may have a decrease in appetite or end up binging on food. That can be especially dangerous if your child already has weight issues—weight-based teasing can cause teens to develop weight stigma, a risk factor for developing eating disorders, according to the US National Eating Disorders Association. If your child also seems to be skipping lunch at school, that could be a red flag that they’re being bullied in the tuckstop line.

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Engaging in destructive behaviour

Engaging in destructive behaviour
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Bullying victims are more likely to do things that could hurt them. If your child starts acting out at home, attempts to run away, or starts cutting or attempting suicide, that could be the impact of bullying. Be sure to listen for the words and phrases that can signal depression or anxiety.

Read how to identify signs of depression in children.

Losing valuables or clothing

Losing valuables or clothing
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If your child suddenly seems absent-minded, those missing items may have been damaged or taken by bullies, Coloroso suggests. Your child may also start stealing money or valuables from you to give to a bully.

Withdrawing from family and school activities

Withdrawing from family and school activities
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Children who are bullied may not just avoid school and friends—they may shut you out, too. “They may think that no one can help them,” says Coloroso. That’s why less than a third of bullying victims tell adults what’s happening, according to research published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Counseling.

Taking more sick days

If your child is suddenly racking up absences for illness, it could have something to do with bullying. And it’s not just that your child’s faking illness trying to avoid the bullies—being bullied puts kids at greater risk of developing illnesses like colds, or psychosomatic conditions like stomachaches or headaches, according to the study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

How to help ease anxiety with 14 magic phrases.

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