Every parent wants their teenager to have friends and a healthy social life, and many parents are heartbroken to find out that their teen is being bullied or that they are bullying someone else. In the most tragic cases, bullying can result in suicide; in less tragic cases, it can result in depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions that can follow an individual through adulthood. There are some steps you can take to prevent your teen from being a bully and also to stop bullying if it happens to your child. Check out these tips on preventing and stopping teenage bullying.
1. Maintain Open Communication
Many parents are surprised when they find out that their teenager is being bullied. Children, especially teens, are often embarrassed about being bullied. It isn’t something they necessarily want to discuss with their parents, their teachers, or any other adults that could help. Instead, they keep it to themselves and might not share what’s going on with anyone. Over time, these bottled up feelings could result in poor grades, aggression, risk-taking behaviors, and even violence toward themselves or others.
Keep an open dialogue with your teen and get to know about the interactions between your teen and their friends. Ask questions like “who do you eat lunch with?”, “what is it like on the school bus?”, and “have you ever seen anyone being bullied?” These types of questions can lead to clues about whether your adolescent is struggling socially.
2. Keep Tabs on What’s Going on Online
Cyberbullying is when bullying takes place via electronics, email, texting, or social media. It is increasingly common among teens. One reason is that many teens find it easier to communicate digitally; they don’t have the same inhibitions as they might when they are face-to-face. This can lead to name-calling, impersonating someone else, and other types of bullying.
Keep an eye on what your teenager is doing online. Know what apps they are using and check periodically to be sure that there is nothing alarming going on. For younger teens, consider keeping all electronics in a public area of the home rather than in their bedrooms.
3. Nip Teenage Bullying Behavior in the Bud
If you see or hear bullying coming from your child or one of his or her friends, step in and point it out immediately. One reason that teenage bullying often goes on is that nobody stops it when they hear it. This can make the bully feel as though their behavior is acceptable. Call out mean and bullying behavior right away and do not allow it in your home. This includes when it happens between siblings; while teens often do tease their siblings and might banter back and forth, if it begins to take on a mean note or if it seems like harassment, nip it in the bud.
4. Have Your Teen Evaluated for Behavioral Disorders
If your teen is acting out with violence, has been in fights at school, has been disciplined for bullying, and shows other signs of aggressive behavior, it is possible that a behavioral disorder is an issue. Take your teen to his or her primary care doctor, who can refer you for an evaluation for a behavioral disorder. This is important whether it has been a lifetime struggle for your child or it is something completely new. A mental health or behavioral specialist might be able to get to the root of the issue.
5. Find Out About the School’s Bullying Protocol
Check your teen’s middle school or high school handbook to find out what the anti-bullying policy is at the school. Each school should have a protocol in place for students who witness or are victims of bullying. If you’re concerned, contact the school’s guidance counselor or assistant principal to find out the steps you can take within the school to stop teenage bullying when it occurs.
6. Get the Authorities Involved
If the school is not helpful or if bullying has turned into a physical assault, stalking, or harassment, you can go to the local authorities for help. In many cases, bullying is illegal. It is better to report teenage bullying now while the teen is still a juvenile. If they continue the behavior through adulthood, they will have much larger consequences for illegal bullying behavior.
7. Remove Your Child From the Environment
If your teen is in danger due to teenage bullying, you will need to do what is necessary to keep him or her safe. Remember that the mental effects of bullying are often worse than the physical effects; bullying can cause a teen to consider, attempt, or follow through with suicide or violence toward others. If he or she is being bullied in school, you might need to take the step of switching schools or allowing your teen to homeschool or take his or her courses online.
Talk to your teenager about this possibility and see what his or her feelings are on the matter. Some teens won’t want to leave their current school, and if this is the case, you should do what you can to make the school safer for your teen. If he or she is eager to get out of that environment, however, look into the options available and make the choice that is right for your family.
8. Seek Mental Health Treatment
If your teen has been bullied or is bullying others, it is important to seek the appropriate mental health care that will allow them to overcome the issue and move on. An adolescent who has struggled with bullying will often become an adult who carries those scars through their life, struggling with the social interactions necessary for a fulfilling and productive adulthood. A teen who has been bullied might suffer from low self-esteem that affects various relationships and career opportunities. A teen who bullies might become an abusive spouse or find themselves in legal trouble later in life. Step in if you suspect bullying and help your teen get past this stage in his or her life.