What to Do When Your Teen Is Being Bullied in School

Bullying is a prevalent problem facing kids today.

According to one study conducted with 20,000 youth by researchers at Florida Atlantic University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 73 percent of teens ages 12 to17 reported that they have been bullied at school, and 44 percent said the bullying had occurred within the past 30 days. With modern technology and social media, bullying goes beyond the bricks and mortar, too. According to Pew Research Center, 59 percent of teens report being bullied or harassed online, and 83 percent of those same youth also report being bullied at school. Clearly, there’s an overlap with what occurs in school and on social media, and this makes escaping bullying extremely difficult.

The very things that make teens susceptible to bullying in school also make them vulnerable online. And far too often, rather than seeking the help of trusted adults, these youth feel ashamed, embarrassed and afraid, so they slip into a state of despair and isolation. Sadly, the majority of kids who are bullied at school don’t report it to a school official either. Moreover, almost half of kids don’t report bullying to anyone at all. Reportedly, bullying leads to millions of daily school absences. For kids who are bullied, schools become places that are associated with fear and intimidation.

[Read: How Parents Can Help Prevent Bullying.]

Fortunately, there are some strong indicators that a teen is being bullied. Here are some things kids who are bullied do that can be a tipoff to parents, or other adults, of a problem:

— withdrawing from activities and social events more than usual

— missing a lot of school

— complaining of frequent stomachaches and headaches

— eating less or more than usual

— avoiding going to school or leaving early

— experiencing significant mood changes

— sleeping more or less than in the past

— unexplainable bruises or abrasions

— losing interest in activities that he or she once enjoyed

Day in and day out kids who are being bullied are scrutinized, called names, harassed, abused physically, taunted, teased and excluded from activities, making them feel disliked and unwanted. And far too often these kids are singled out for characteristics such as their academic status, appearance, race, gender identity, mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability, socioeconomic status, religion, or sexual orientation. In most cases, these youth desire nothing more than to fit in and be accepted by their peers.

Here are steps you can take if your teen is being bullied at school:

1. Listen and provide support. It’s easy for parents to want to save and protect their kid, but that can actually make matters worse. Your teen needs to be able to express what’s happening and feel validated by someone who loves them.

2. Get the specifics. Before running to the school, get your ducks in a row and gather information. Here is what you’ll want to know:

— How long has it been occurring?

— Who are the perpetrators? Who is the ringleader?

— What is happening?

— Where is it occurring?

— When is it happening?

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the most common places bullying occurs is in the hallway or stairwell at school (42 percent), inside the classroom (34 percent), in the cafeteria (22 percent), outside on school grounds (19 percent), on the school bus (10 percent), and in the bathroom or locker room (9 percent). Although many schools have security cameras, the students who bully know where they are and often choose spots that are unsupervised and where they won’t get caught. If the bullying is happening online, see if there’s lingering evidence of what was occurring. If so, start documenting and recording dates, times and descriptions of what occurred. Also, save all electronic communication such as texts, emails and screenshots of the bullying.

[Read: 6 Strategies for Helping a Teen Who’s Being Bullied About His or Her Weight.]

3. Know your rights. Most states have anti-bullying laws and policies. C heck out your state’s laws. Along with state laws, each school district or school should have clear anti-bullying policies. Know these policies and your rights before meeting with an administrator.

4. Respond with preparation. Make an appointment with the school principal. Take all of your documentation, or evidence, with you. Be sure to go over the specifics noted in item No. 2.

5. Take a stance. Have your teen share with the principal what he or she would like to have happen with the situation. This doesn’t mean what you want to happen to the kid who’s bullying but rather what could ensure your teen’s safety. Also, be careful not to become a voice for your teen during the meeting. It’s important that teens are able to express themselves as well as feel comfortable with the next step. Think about it: Your teen’s voice has been stifled by bullying for too long, and now it’s time for your teen to take it back!

6. Document, document, document. Document every detail of the school meeting. After the meeting, send a follow-up email summarizing what was covered along with the suggested resolution, and save a copy for your records.

7. Do not meet with the perpetrator. Do not agree to have your teen meet with the perpetrator. Bullying is about repeated intentional harm, power and control. Bullying is not conflict resolution, and bringing the two parties together is not going to resolve the situation and could make it worse.

8. Be patient. Fortunately, the majority of schools are well-equipped to handle bullying situations. As a parent, you may want to know what’s happening to the perpetrators, but schools aren’t allowed to share that confidential information with you due to privacy laws. Your teen can tell you when things are getting better, and you hopefully will notice positive changes in your child’s behavior.

9. Be prepared to take it a step farther. In the event things don’t get better, be prepared to report the issue to the authorities. A lot of U.S. public schools have police officers on campus, and these individuals can be wonderful resources to utilize in both in-school and online bullying situations. If your school does not have law enforcement on campus, then reach out to your local authorities if need be.

10. Get your teen professional help. Bullying can have a profound impact on kids’ psychological and emotional well-being. Bullying has been associated with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, self-harm and even suicide. Whether the bullying is verbal, physical or done via the internet, the adverse effects are equally harmful, and they can last a lifetime. Counseling is a valuable resource that can help your teen recover from the devastating effects of bullying.

[Read: Helping Kids Navigate a Virtual World Where Cyberbullying Is Common.]

With so many kids reportedly being bullied at school, we have to make sure that they feel safe and supported at home. We need to let them know that they can share information with us and that we will help them through difficult situations. Furthermore, we need to always remember the power of acceptance and kindness. Beyond the scope of bullying, we need to instill in our kids that words and actions do matter, and most importantly, that we really can make a positive difference in someone’s life.

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What to Do When Your Teen Is Being Bullied in School originally appeared on usnews.com

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