Bullying was once considered a childhood rite of passage. Today, however, bullying is recognized as a serious problem. Up to half of all children are bullied at some point during their school years, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. And thanks to tech-savvy kids, cyberbullying and other forms of electronic harassment are now commonplace.
MULTIMEDIA ALERT: Broadcast audio and video resources are available to download on the Mayo Clinic News Network. Watch Medical Edge packages on bullying in sports and stopping bullying in the classroom.
Mayo Clinic experts are available to comment on a variety of bullying angles and issues. Mayo Clinic bullying prevention experts Peter Jensen, M.D., and Bridget Biggs, Ph.D., can talk about cyberbullying, and physical and verbal bullying among adolescents.
Children who are bullied may be afraid to go to school, Drs. Jensen and Biggs say. They may complain of headaches or stomachaches and have trouble concentrating on schoolwork. In the long term, the consequences of bullying may be even more severe, they say.
"Children who are bullied have higher rates of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and other mental health conditions," Dr. Jensen says. "Children who are bullied are more likely to think about suicide. Some of these wounds may linger into adulthood."
If you suspect that your child is being bullied, take the situation seriously, say Drs. Jensen and Biggs. Tips on what to do include:
* Encourage your child to share his or her concerns.
* Learn as much as you can about the situation.
* Teach your child how to respond to the bullying.
* Contact school officials.
* Follow up. Keep in contact with school officials.
* Boost your child's self-confidence.
* Seek professional help if needed.
Anywhere there is a pecking order, the potential for bullying exists, says Max Trenerry, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic sports medicine psychologist. For children, the competitive nature of sports can add an extra element of aggression, says Dr. Trenerry, who also is a soccer coach and sports psychology consultant.
"Cliques and small groups on sports teams can prevent development of promising players, and even drive players to quit their team," Dr. Trenerry says. "There are ways to foster a healthy environment on the field and make every teammate feel involved."