Overview: Anybody can be a bully, even those bullied themselves. Look out for aggressive behavior, justification of bad behavior on the part of others, trouble at school, and intolerance for those who are different as signs of bullying.
Anyone Can Be A Bully
If you turn the bullying statistics on their head, it’s clear that there are a lot of bullies out there. UNICEF found that one in three kids surveyed reported being bullied, and it can’t just be one person doing the bullying.
Part of this is that bullying is a matter of empathy and perspective, or a lack thereof, as this video shows:
Worse, research is beginning to indicate that bullying can convey social status within a group when targeted at somebody outside the group. Similarly, the anonymity conveyed by online settings can make misbehavior feel consequence-free, especially if the victim just logs off instead of communicating their feelings or fighting back.
And, as screen use and the internet become more and more common in our lives, kids have more opportunities to be exposed to bullies and to bully others.
Signs Of Bullying
Generally, there are a few reliable “real-world” signs that a child or teen is being a bully:
- Aggressive or abusive behavior towards friends and siblings, including verbal abuse and insults
- Aggressive or hostile behavior among their friends
- Difficulty in school, especially reports of behavioral issues or discipline concerns
- Struggles to control their temper, including outbursts and expressions of anger
- Expressions of intolerance or dislike for other kids for being “different” in some way
There’s also evidence that a lack of sleep and imitation of parental behavior may be a factor as well. That said, remember that even if outside factors are involved, bullying is a choice. Kids don’t have to make others feel bad or act in ways that hurt others. Even if they regret those choices later, that won’t matter if their actions come back to haunt them.
Create clear rules about behavior online. Make a contract for the whole family that everyone should follow, including how to act online.
Use parental control software. Kids should only be online so much of the day in the first place, so restricting where they go online, and when they do it, should be part of the rules of having a screen.
Discuss misbehavior you witness. Even if your kids are losing their temper at a video game or a TV show instead of a person, sitting them down and discussing how to better manage frustration and temper will only be a good thing.
Talk regularly about what they’re doing online. Ask kids what they’re doing, who they’re hanging out with, and what’s happening.
Consider your own approaches. Kids learn most from parents, but they don’t have the tools to sort out when and why you’re losing your temper. If kids ask you why you’re angry in traffic, have an honest discussion about your feelings and frustrations, and make it clear that it’s a slip, not a strategy.
Nipping bullying — online or in-person — in the bud is good for both your children and those who might be pushed around. Screen Time parental control software can help. To learn more, sign up!