Signs Your Child May Be the Victim of Bullying

According to a May 2011 survey published by the United States Department of Education, approximately 8,166,000 students between the ages of 12 and 18 reported that they were being bullied in school; this number translates to about 31.7% of American students in that age group.

The effects of bullying have been emphasized to parents, educators and childcare providers as media coverage of teen suicides resulting from unchecked bullying increases.

In today’s world, children require protection from each other, as well as reprehensible adult influence.

Fortunately, there are a few warning signs that could indicate that your child is the victim of bullies.

  1. Unexplained Injuries or Damages to Property – When items go missing or turn up broken, clothing and other property is torn or damaged, or your child shows clear signs of physical injury but lacks a plausible explanation for these occurrences, there’s a very strong chance that he’s being bullied and trying to hide it from you. Because seeking help for bullying is often considered a sign of weakness, some kids will go to great lengths to keep their plight under wraps.
  2. Displays an Aversion to School – A child that was once happy and eager to attend classes but suddenly exhibits a strong aversion to school, attempts to fake illnesses as a means of staying home, or puts up a fight every morning may be trying to avoid school because he’s trying to avoid being bullied there. Most kids show at least a mild aversion to school from time to time; however, should your child seem genuinely afraid or angry about going to his classes each morning, there may be more to the story than a typical childhood distaste for school.
  3. Difficulty Sleeping or Nightmares – One of the most common signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, which is not uncommon in children that are severely bullied, is difficulty sleeping. Sleep disruptions and nightmares should be viewed as a cause for concern when they become a regular occurrence; the occasional bad dream is simply par for the childhood course, but recurring nightmares could indicate a serious problem.
  4. Lowered Academic Performance – Kids that are the victims of bullying may experience a drop in grades or show other indications of a lowered academic performance, either as a result of being actively distracted from their studies by bullies or because they’re experiencing symptoms of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder that makes it difficult for them to focus. When grades rapidly plummet, parents should always address the situation; however, if there are other indicators of bullying, kids should certainly not be punished if their studies are suffering.
  5. Loss of Interest in Hobbies or Activities – When a child that was once eager to join in activities, extra-curricular sports or after school programs abruptly shows a lack of interest or even a distaste for those hobbies, it could indicate that he’s being bullied by other participants and wants to distance himself from the situation as much as possible.
  6. Isolation – It’s not unheard of for tweens and teens to barricade themselves in their rooms, eschewing the company of their parents in favor of talking to their friends; it’s so common, in fact, that it’s become something of a societal cliché. That being said, if your child is isolating himself from everyone, and doesn’t seem to have many friends that he’s interacting with, that isolation could be an indicator of bullying or harassment.
  7. Self-Harming Behavior – The most drastic, and perhaps the most upsetting, indicator of bullying is self-harming behavior in your child. Cutting, eating disorders and risky behavior, like running away from home, are all classic signs of bullying or abuse; though they may seem extreme and overwhelming, they’re not an indicator that all hope is lost. A child exhibiting these signs is likely to require some treatment, and may need to be removed from their current school as a protective measure.

Fear of retribution, a reluctance to appear helpless, and humiliation at their plight may leave kids reluctant to notify an authority figure, or even to admit to being bullied in many cases.

The 2008 to 2009 School Crime Supplement indicates that roughly two-thirds of bullying cases go unreported by the victims or their peers, so uncovering the truth may require a bit of finesse.

Aggressive questioning can feel like an interrogation to an already victimized child, so parents should keep their tone open, calm and non-judgmental during conversations about the subject.


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