Two Signs Your Child Is a Bully and What to Do

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The headlines are familiar: “Cyberbullying Victim Takes Their Life”; “Bullying at an All Time High”; “38% of Girls and 26% of Boys Report Being Bullied Online”.

The media has done a good job of bringing the problem to the forefront to raise awareness. Countless groups and a number of resources have been established to help the victims, yet little attention has been paid to the bully – attention to help parents recognize and identify the signs to determine if indeed their child may be the bully.

Any parent can understand that bullying is wrong. In fact, you don’t even need to experience it firsthand to imagine the torment that bullying victims go through. What most people aren’t aware of, though, are the consequences that can come from bullying. Consequences can range from academic suspension to parents being sued for libel. In severe cases where a bullying victim commits suicide, the bully can even be charged with manslaughter.

So, if you’re a parent and you’re suspicious or concerned that your child may be a bully, here is a list of signs you can look for to determine if they are one and what you can do to help them.

Two Signs to Look For:

First, recognize that kids that bully, online or in person, first learn at home that it’s okay to treat another person with disrespect or that it’s okay to hurt another person.

This can be learned directly from, or influenced by:

1. A parent or other adult influence in a child’s everyday life that demonstrates bullying behavior themselves. This adult is usually aggressive; they like to dominate; they like to use their physical size, strength or intelligence to intimidate others; they are cunning or manipulative, and usually rude and disrespectful.

Children are a product of their environment. Look at yourself; look at your spouse/significant other and look at the adults that spend a considerable amount of time with your child. If any of the people that come to mind demonstrate this type of behavior, then throw up the red flag.

2. Media. Make no mistake; the online culture that your child is a part of does impact their behavior.

Adult-intended social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Formspring and Tumblr boast a culture of “anything and everything goes”, and members aren’t held accountable for their actions and often times members participate anonymously. It’s important, however, to understand that your experiences on these sites are entirely different then your child’s.

On YouTube, which is a great site for enjoying user-generated video content, kids seek attention by posting videos that broadcast themselves. Typically, the more outrageous the video the more views it will get. Sadly, that was the exact case of the horrific Karen Klein bus-bullying video taken by the middle school boys. The boys took the video because they wanted to post it on YouTube, and they wanted to post it on YouTube because they knew it would get plenty of views.

If your kids are spending a lot of time on any or all of these sites, then realize that the culture there does, and will influence them.

Second, recognize that 50% of real-world bullies are also cyberbullies. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, if your child has bullied others in person, then this is an indication that their behavior might be repeated online.

Five Things You Can Do to Help Your Child:

  1. Talk with your child and tell them that being cruel or mean to others is wrong, both online and offline, and that such behaviors are not acceptable and won’t be tolerated.
  2. Have your child sign a technology contract so that rules and consequences are clearly defined. You can click here to download one.
  3. Start monitoring your child’s online and cell phone activities. Responsible parenting requires that you know exactly what your child is doing online. It doesn’t mean snooping or spying; it means being alert and proactive to concerning behaviors.
  4. Steer your child in the direction of youth-intended social networks like Yoursphere, where the community is one of respect and positive interaction, and members aren’t recognized or rewarded for outrageous behavior. Instead, these social networks teach their members the importance of digital citizenship.
  5. Give your child a hug. A bully typically has low self-esteem and is ultimately seeking attention. Whether your child is a bully or not, a hug and an “I love you” is just the type of attention every child needs.

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