Teens are bullied over the same thing generation after generation: physical differences such as weight, acne and facial features, speech differences, mental abilities/disabilities.
Teens get bullied verbally, physically (tripping down the hall, book bumping), and through writing.
One significant difference that teens face now is the vast amount of technology available, which has changed the dynamic of bullying behavior.
Teens are attacked through social media such as Facebook, text messages are sent, photos are sent and become viral in seconds. Sexting is not uncommon.
When you were a teenager, pictures were physical. Notes were on paper. And while rumors could get around quickly, they were not recorded forever on the world wide web.
As a parent of a teen, you can make a difference when your child is being bullied.
Here are 5 things that all parents of teens need to know.
- When your child says they are being picked on or bullied, believe them. Your teen may act confident and happy while in your presence, but at school she may behave differently.
- Take action. This may be meeting with school administrators and being an advocate for your child. It may be getting him counseling. It may be brainstorming with him about ways to stand up to others if he feels comfortable with this.
- Know your school’s policy, and hold them to it. More than once I’ve had to write or meet with school administrators to advocate for a student. It is not your child’s job to ignore the bullies; gaining strength to deal with bullying behaviors may be something to be worked on but the school has a duty to protect your teen and make school a safe place. This could mean changing schedules, having a teen who is hurting your son or daughter attend counseling sessions, or discipline for them.
- Talk to your child about how she feels. Does she think about dying? Is she hurting herself? Who are her friends?
- Bullying can be a very serious problem for teens. A teenager’s brain is not fully developed, and what is happening now seems like it will happen forever. They feel as if the strong emotions they feel now will always be there. It is hard, if not impossible, for them to imagine a different way of being. So when they feel like they have no friends and people are spreading horrible rumors about them, they can’t believe an adult life where this is not true. So when they say they feel like their life is over, listen to them. Get them professional help.
Being a teenager has never been easy, but teens today have a set of struggles that are unique to their generation. Trying to explain to a 10 year old that a picture he posts on the internet may never ever go away is difficult. It’s our job as parents to do what we can to help them make it through these years.
We can’t protect our children from everything, but what we can do is be aware, be available, and be an advocate for them in these tumultuous years.
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