Health Watch - Bullied Kids

January 23, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
MINNEAPOLIS (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- About 90 percent of elementary school students say they've been bullied, and six in every 10 say they have been bullies themselves. It's an age-old problem, bullying has changed and so have the ways of dealing with it.

Alison used to love school -- until a friend's dog bit her on the face, and her classmates noticed.

"They called me scar face, dog face, and so on. Deep down inside, I felt really, really bad," says Allison.

Chris McGowan's son was also bullied by his peers, but they did it over the Internet -- creating a fake MySpace page portraying him as a pedophile.

"It just made my knees buckle. It was just that awful," says McGowan. "I think outrage is the least of what I felt."

Psychologist David Walsh, Ph.D., from the National Institute on Media and the Family, says cyber-bullying is becoming more popular.

"It's anonymous. I can literally bully another kid, and nobody knows I'm doing it.

Here's what parents can do: Encourage your child to ignore the bully and block communication. Help your child make friends with other kids. Bullies are less likely to pick on groups. If the threats become physical, talk to a school official or the bully's parents. As a last resort -- hire a lawyer.

"We don't want to bail our kids out of every social situation, but there's that line when bullying is not a fair playing field," Dr. Walsh says.

McGowan's son changed schools and is no longer teased.

"It had a physical and emotional effect on him for months," she says.

But, if bullying isn't dealt with, that effect could last a lifetime.

Walsh says bullies are more likely to pick on kids who are loners, don't stand up for themselves and tend to overreact. Many states are currently upgrading their laws to deal with cyber-bullying. Vermont was the first to pass a law treating cyber-bullying as a crime following the suicide of a 13-year-old.

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For more information, please contact:

Darin Broton
National Institute on Media & the Family
(651) 221-1999