Boys and Bullying – What’s the Big Problem and What’s the Solution?
What Does Bullying Look Like for Our Kids?
All parents have taken their turn telling their kids about their own walk to school “up hill both ways”, the hardships of their own childhoods, and their adolescent troubles that all seem silly in retrospect – so it can be easy to disregard or diminish media stories that bullying and its effects have become a serious epidemic in schools.
But data shows us for sure: What adolescents face today is nothing like the playground scuffles or classroom ribbing of years ago. The advent of internet access and social media has escalated what used to be he-said-she-said school hour pains to inescapable constant persecution for bullying victims.
More than 55% of adolescents report being cyberbullied, and almost all of them report that the harassment comes from someone that they know in real life that’s also obtained access to them or made posts about them online. Cyberbullying can take the form of personal attacks, spreading false information about or falsely representing others, dispersing an individual’s private data, or driving campaigns to stalk, exclude, or harass someone.
Simply put, bullying no longer exists in schools alone – and the ramifications of abuse that never stops can be severe.
What’s the Problem?
The problem, quite simply, is that the serious and severe bullying that adolescents are much more likely to encounter today has the ability to cause lasting damage in your child’s life – and become a gateway to more serious harm. Bullying, especially chronic bullying, more often than not leads to other detrimental effects in a child’s life.
Studies find that adolescent boys who report being bullied also report struggling with their mental health four times more than their peers. A child who’s bullied is significantly more likely to lose interest and motivation in school, hobbies, and social situations, explore self-destructive behaviors, and hesitate to seek help when they need it.
Uncoincidentally, those are also the characteristics professionals recognize as risk factors for substance abuse in adolescents. Contrary to popular media coverage, boys are more vulnerable to serious harm from the effects of bullying than girls – and the isolation that comes with them not feeling strong, self-reliant, or connected to their peers can lead them to seek more dangerous behaviors.
Recognizing that your child needs help is the first step to taking action for their overall wellness.
Signs Your Child is Being Bullied
It’s important to note that adolescents often don’t ask for help or tell anyone at all when they’re being bullied. Whether it’s shame, embarrassment, fear of retribution, or feelings of inadequacy that keep them from seeking help, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs yourself so you can proactively intervene.
Declining interest in social situations, school, and friends are not the only signs that bullying is the culprit behind the changes you see in your son.
Some other things to watch for include:
- Missing, damaged, or destroyed personal items including clothing, electronics, and objects of sentimental value to your child
- Frequent complaints of illness without visible symptoms
- Unexplainable hunger or aggressive lack of appetite
- Unreasonable amounts of school work
- Unexplainable desperation to attend an event or obtain something of high value that they have no reasonable need for
- Unhealthy obsession with changing something about themself
- Drastic changes in their normal social media activity or deleting/hiding social media accounts
What Do I Do?
DO make it clear to your child that you support them and they are valued, no matter what they’re being bullied about.
DON’T make finding the cause of the bullying or “solving the problem” your focus.
DO contact other authority figures in their life like teachers, school counselors, clergy, or coaches to let them know what’s happening.
DON’T try to contact, take charge of, or punish the other party.
DO report serious bodily harm, mentions of weapons or illicit substances, sexual abuse, or anything illegal to the proper authorities no matter what.
If your son needs help dealing with mental health struggles or substance abuse, DO reach out to our staff at Stonewood to discuss treatment options. Our counselors can help you get started in your teen’s new life today.