Many children and students are reluctant to report bullying for a fear of the abuse becoming more severe or intense, despite data that shows the opposite is usually true, according to Sandra Sellick, a board member with StopABully.ca and former school principal.
Because the victims of bullying are often reluctant to report the abuse, it is important for parents to have an ongoing dialogue with their children. But it is also important to know the warning signs that bullying may be happening, she said.
“The most obvious signs are when a child shows symptoms of physical abuse or aggression, such as torn clothes, scrapes or bruises,” she said. “But the first sign is usually property gone missing such as shoes or backpacks.”
Another warning sign is when a student becomes reluctant to go to school, according to Sellick.
“If the student always went to school early to hang out with their friends but now wants to go only after the first bell has rung, that is a good indication bullying is happening.”
She said that the anxiety of not wanting to go to school can often unravel at night when a student is thinking about what may happen to them the next day. Parents need to be aware of the signs of depression as well as any changes in the friendship patterns of their child.
According to the Canadian anti-bullying awareness organization Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet) parents should also be aware if their child is having frequent nightmares, loses interest in the activities that he or she usually enjoys or has lower performance at school than usual.
According to PREVNet, complaints of feeling unwell such as headaches or stomachaches or mentioning that they are hungry after school could be a signs as well. If a child has low self esteem, makes negative comments and appears unhappy or irritable, they may be being bullied, according to PREVNet.
Just as important as signs of being bullied are the signs that a child may be bullying others. According to PREVNet, those signs include being aggressive with parents, siblings, pets or friends; having low concern for others’ feelings; bossy and manipulative behaviour; having unexplained objects or money; secretive about possessions and activities; holding a positive view of aggression; being easily frustrated and quick to anger; not recognizing impact of his or her behaviour; having friends who bully and are aggressive; and having trouble standing up to peer pressure.