Children who are bullied are at higher risk for psychological maladjustment in adulthood including both internalizing and externalizing problems2. Twenty to forty percent of children experience bullying at least once during their school years with the majority of bullying occurring in middle school1. Addressing this issue requires a team effort consisting of parents, teachers and school administrators. Healthcare providers also play a role in identifying children in need of intervention, educating parents, youth and providing a support plan.
Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves a power imbalance and is repeated over time.
Bullying can take on many different forms, including actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. As children get older, most bullying incidents start to happen both online and in school. Cyberbullying can occur through posted comments, sending cruel messages, posting hurtful polls/ pictures or starting rumors about others.
Primary care doctors can help prevent cyberbullying by encouraging parents to talk to their children early about the appropriate use of electronic devices and stress the importance of direct conversation to avoid misunderstandings and harmful interactions among peers.
Many youth do not disclose their bullying experiences to an adult and so it’s important to ask specific questions3. When assessing for bullying, define bullying and cyberbullying for the parent and child, find out details about the bullying behavior that is taking place and identify whether adults are already aware. Offer support by telling the child that being bullied is never their fault, it’s wrong and noone deserves to be bullied. If the behavior involves school relationships, even if it is through cyberbullying, make a plan for the child and parent to meet with school personnel about the concerns immediately.
The Bullying and Cyberbullying Checklist for Physicians and Practitioners is available for free by downloading it from Boston Children’s Hospital website. The long and short versions can be used as a physician-administered screen for bullying as well as creating a response plan. Illinois DocAssist consultants are available by phone to assist primary care doctors in assessing for bullying and it’s psychological impacts as well as creating a plan to address this important issue. Look for more information and resources coming soon on the Illinois DocAssist website related to bullying and cyberbullying.
The Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC): www.MARCcenter.org
Bullying And Cyberbullying Prevention and Advocacy Collaborative (BACPAC) at Children’s
Hospital Boston: www.childrenshospital.org/BACPAC
Stop Bullying Now from the U.S. government: http://stopbullying.gov
- Shetgiri, R;Lin, H; Flores, G. Trends in risk and protective factors for child bullying perpetration in the United States. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 44 (2013), 89-104.
- Copeland, W.E; Wolke, D; Angold, A; Costello, E.J. Adult psychiatric outcomes of bullying and being bullied by peers in childhood and adolescence. JAMA Psychiatry, 70 (2013), 419-426.
O’Connell ., Price J., Barrow C. Emerging trends amongst primary school children’s use of the Internet. Cyberspace Research Unit. Full Report (2004)