Dealing with Bullying in Teen Years

Mayo Clinic LogoMost of the bullying I dealt with took place during my pre-teen elementary school and tween years. But many kids who suffer with bullying have it take place well into their teen and High School years. This can have a dramatic effect due to all the emotional stress that children go through during their teen years when their bodies and minds are changing more quickly.

An article from The Mayo Clinic, I found in my research on the subject of bullying sheds more light on the differences between pre-teen and teen bullying. The researchers distinguish teen bullying’s common core features as:

  1. The aggression is intentional.
  2. The aggression is repeated.
  3. The aggression thrives on an imbalance of power between the perpetrator and the target.

As a result kids who experience this bullying are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and behaviors. In addition, the research shows that teens who are cyber-bullied in particular are more likely to use alcohol and/or drugs, receive school detentions or suspensions, skip school, or be deal with face-to-face bullying. Another factor in the study is that teen bullying is associated with a higher rate of weapon carrying and fighting that leads to injury. While these are not surprising, it does show the damage and potential damage that bullying does.

The research shows some strong differences as well between pre-teen and teen bullying. Unique traits of teen bullying are:

  1. Teens are more reluctant to report bullying to parents or schools
  2. Teens are more reluctant to report cyber-bullying due to policy rules or fear of losing their phone or internet priviledges

Research continues to show, though, that parents can and do influence a child, even during the rebellious teen years. Parents can help prevent teens from being both bullies and victims of bullying. The Mayo Clinic article suggests that parents:

  • Get involved by providing activities and a good home life
  • Monitor internet, phone, and TV use
  • Help teens learn to cope with their feelings by setting and example with your own behavior
  • Meet your teens friends and know who they are hanging out with

Part of the solution is that parents can’t fear talking with their teens about bullying. Communication and open discussions are key. The article suggests the following tactics that teens can  take:

  • Avoid isolation. If you’re in a situation where you think bullying might happen, don’t go it alone. Stick with trusted classmates during the school day. If you’re walking home from school, find someone to go with you.
  • Communicate self-confidence. Walk tall, make eye contact and speak assertively to the bully. Just saying “stop” or walking away from the bully — or deleting offending emails or text messages — may be enough.
  • Nurture positive friendships. Spend time with trusted friends, or reach out to friendly peers. Make new friends through after-school activities, such as music, theater and athletics.
  • Avoid violence. Getting involved in a fight may only lead to more aggression.
  • Report dangerous situations. If you’re being stalked or you’ve been physically attacked by a bully, don’t be afraid to tell a trusted adult.

Finally, if your teen tells you they are being bullied, you can take the following actions after reassuring your child that you will do everything in your power to help. The Mayo Clinic article then goes on to say you can:

  • Record the details. Write down the details — the date, who was involved and what specifically happened. Record the facts as objectively as possible.
  • Meet with school authorities. Start with a teacher who knows your child well. Ask whether your child’s classroom behavior has changed or if there are any other warning signs. You might also consult a school dean, counselor or other school contact.
  • Explain your concerns in a matter-of-fact way. Instead of finding blame, ask for help to solve the bullying problem. Keep notes on these meetings. Remember that it can take time for teachers and administrators to investigate bullying in a fair and factual way.
  • Ask for a copy of the school’s policy on bullying. Find out how bullying is addressed in the school’s curriculum, as well as how staff members are obligated to respond to known or suspected bullying.

I have reprinted much of the article’s content here for you so that you can read and use it. Please also reference the original article at The Mayo Clinic website to see additional information.