Prevent bullying in schools
August 20, 2014
This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
School is back in session here in Carson City and in neighboring Lyon and Douglas Counties. Storey County will head back to the classrooms next week. That makes now a suitable time to take a look at bullying and to provide parents, teachers, and other adults with tools to recognize and stop bullying.
Bullying is repeated, unwanted aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Many people think bullying always includes physical violence, but that is not the case. Bullying can include verbal abuse such as teasing, taunting and name-calling and inappropriate comments and threats. Bullying can be exclusionary behavior, like leaving someone out or telling others not to be friends with someone. Spreading rumors about someone or embarrassing them in public are also types of bullying. Many things adults disregard as "kids being kids" are actually harmful, hurtful behaviors that can have serious, lasting consequences for both the aggressor and the child being bullied.
Bullying is linked to many negative health outcomes, including impacts on mental health, substance use and suicide. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. Their academic achievement may also suffer.
The negative effects of bullying are not limited to the child who is being bullied. Kids who bully others are more likely to engage in violent and risky behaviors into adulthood. They are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs, get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school. They are also at increased risk to engage in early sexual activity and be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults.
Peggy Edwards, who works with the Office of Suicide Prevention and Healthy Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey Counties, has a few things parents or guardians should keep an eye out for: "If your child doesn't want to go to school or they complain frequently of being sick, if they are irritable and isolate themselves in a way that they have not before, those are red flags" she said.
Cyberbullying is also a concern. Where bullying used to take place face-to-face in school hallways, locker rooms, or on the playground, now bullying can take place anonymously, over the internet. Edwards encourages parents to set limits for use of computers or mobile devices, telling parents to take the computer out of the bedroom and monitor internet usage if you suspect cyberbullying.
How can you stop bullying? Talk with your kids, and really listen to what they have to say. Check in on them and see how they are doing. Kids may be reluctant to talk to you — you are, after all, an adult — but keep asking. Knowing there's someone they can trust and talk to can make all the difference for a child who's experiencing bullying. If you suspect your child is a bully or is being bullied, the school counselor or administrators can be a great resource for you to discuss your concerns.
For more information about bullying, visit http://www.stopbullying.gov. For more information on Health Department services, visit http://www.gethealthycarsoncity.org, or like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CCHHS.