Bullying among teenagers can be harder to spot than bullying among younger children. Teenage bullying victims are better able to hide their feelings from their parents and teachers, and teenage bullies are better able to hide their actions. Teenage bullying is often less physical than bullying among younger children, and these days, much of it may take place online. So how are parents to know if their teen has a problem with bullying if their teen doesn’t tell them directly? Take a look at some of the teen bullying signs that your teen may be dealing with.
Teen Bullying Signs Beginning at School
School is where young people spend the most time together, and it’s where a lot of bullying between same-aged peers is likely to start. Even in cases of cyberbullying, it’s common for the bully and bullied to know each other from school. Conflicts may arise in the school setting and later migrate to the web.
When a teenager must encounter someone who is bullying them in school, it’s not surprising that they might begin to have problems in school. Teens who are being bullied might feign illness or come up with other excuses to miss school, or they may skip classes or whole days of school behind your back. If they can’t avoid school, teen bullying signs might exhibit anxiety or express dislike for school and school-related activities.
You may also notice a change in your teenager’s grades. It’s common for stress and distractions to impact a teen’s ability to succeed in school, and being bullied is both stressful and distracting. Failing to turn in assignments or work up to their previous standards may also be a way for a teen to express that something is wrong when they don’t feel comfortable saying it in words.
Keep an Eye out for Behavior Changes
Although school can be ground zero for bullying, it’s important to realize that bullying affects a teen’s whole life, not just the hours they spend on school grounds. A teen who is coping with a bullying situation may exhibit concerning behavior changes at home and in other situations as well.
A teen who is being bullied may become isolated, going out less and spending less time with peers. Sometimes the bullies are the same people that were previously your teen’s friends. Conflict within a friend group can leave one teen on the outs, being bullied by the same people who they would previously have turned to for support and comfort. This can be a very lonely position.
Teens who are being bullied may seem depressed or low on self-esteem. They may have trouble sleeping or display signs of sadness or anxiety. Changes in eating habits can also be significant. A teen who suddenly seems to eat a lot more or snack more frequently may be using food as a form of comfort to avoid dealing with their feelings. A teen who seems to have no appetite at all may be too upset to feel hungry or may be avoiding food in response to bullying focused on their weight or appearance. While it’s not uncommon for teens to eat more or less for harmless reasons, any sudden, unexplained, and unhealthy changes in your teen’s eating habits warrant some investigation.
You may notice your teen avoiding the computer, using their phone less than usual, or appearing jumpy and nervous at the sound of text, app, or email notifications. These could be signs that your teen is being cyberbullied.
Teen bullying signs may also exhibit teenagers who have bullying behaviors themselves. While it’s easy to think of a bully as a villain and their target as a victim, it’s often not that simple. A teen who is targeted for bullying may take out their anger and frustration at their bully on someone else, becoming a bully themselves as well as a victim. It’s important to recognize that bullying behavior itself can be a sign that there’s something wrong that needs to be addressed, and that children and teens who bully may be more in need of intervention than punishment.
Physical Symptoms Can Take Form
Teenagers are somewhat less likely to use physical force to bully than younger children, but it still happens. Unexplained bruises or other injuries, as well as ripped or damaged clothing or belongings, are signs that bullying may be taking place.
Furthermore, the loss of clothing or belongings could also be teen bullying signs and physical intimidation. When your teen comes home without their favorite jacket and doesn’t have a good explanation for where it went, it could be that they were bullied into handing it over to someone else who wanted it. If your teen frequently “loses” items that are valuable or important to them with no real explanation, it’s worth looking more closely at the situation.
Teens who are bullied may also complain of physical ailments like headaches, nausea, stomachaches, and other nonspecific maladies. While these complaints could be an attempt to get out of school, it’s also entirely possible that your teen is actually experiencing pain or discomfort. In some cases, the stress and emotional disruption they experience as a result of being bullied could manifest in the form of real physical symptoms. It’s also possible that a victim of physical bullying could sustain a serious injury that causes lasting pain, even if the injury isn’t immediately visible.
There are many reasons why teens don’t speak out about bullying. They may fear retaliation or humiliation. They may worry that involving adults will make the situation worse, or they may be embarrassed for their parents to know that they’re being bullied. They may also fear getting in trouble for something they did – for example, a teen who is being bullied because she sent a risqué picture to a boyfriend who then shared the picture with classmates may be more worried about her parents finding out that she was sexting than about stopping the bullying. Because teens are not always comfortable enlisting adult help in a bullying situation, it’s important for parents to be on the lookout for telltale teen bullying signs.