It’s a helpless feeling, knowing your child is getting bullied.

I remember a time when my son was 4 years old, cute as a button. I dropped him off at the gym’s childcare service and came back an hour later to find him in timeout.

What??? That had never happened before.

He was sitting in a tiny plastic chair, wiping away tears, not looking at all remorseful. I squeezed into another tiny chair and held him tight.

“What happened?” I asked the staff. I wanted to know for two reasons. One, to see how I could help. Two, my child had never been punished at the gym before and I was a little shocked.

They described a scene out of a Rocky movie.

“Your son went up to two older boys and started hitting them. We couldn’t control him and he was so mad, we put him in timeout.”

Wow. That didn’t seem like the whole story.

I started getting pieces of the story from my son, who was clearly traumatized. I found out that those boys had taken his cochlear implants off of his head and ran away with them.

(Sidebar: my son is deaf. Cochlear implants are his “ears”, his access to sound. (He’s had a surgery that puts a device in his cochlea and another device that looks like a hearing aid rests on his ear with a circular magnet that sits on his head.) Without these devices, he is deaf and he freaks out. Especially at four years old. Since he was a baby, I’ve taught him to protect his “ears” just like he’d protect his “privates”–vigorously. No one should be touching his cochlear implants without his permission. One, because they’re HIS. Two, because they’re thousands of dollars of technology perched on his tiny ears. He’s the boss of his implants.)

So my Mama-bear-self hears that two punks stole his hearing devices and took off running and that my son protected his “ears” just as I had trained him to. I could feel my blood start to boil. The wrong kid was punished!

I wanted to simultaneously praise my child and straight-up-throttle those other kids.

The other kids had already left. Luckily for everyone. So the choice was simple. I told my son he did the right thing. I told the childcare workers my son did the right thing and he would do it again, if he were threatened. I told them my expectations on how they would handle that situation, were it to happen again, and they agreed.

My son never wanted to go to the gym with me after that incident. For months, he wore sweatshirt hoods that hid his cochlear implants. He cried if I mentioned the gym.

And that was just one incident. I can only imagine the damage and repercussions of consistent bullying.

Bark’s 2018 data shows that 62% of tweens and 71% of teens experienced bullying online (as a bully, victim or witness).

2018 statistics from bark.us
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Warning signs your child is getting bullied:

  • Changes in behavior
    • Withdrawing from friends and family
    • Becoming secretive
    • Sleeping too much or not enough
    • Eating too much or not enough
    • Not enjoying activities anymore
  • Becoming angry,depressed or sad after being online or using their phone
  • No longer using their device/avoiding screens
  • Declining grades
  • Uneasy about going to school
  • Changing friends

Warning signs that your child is bullying another person:

  • Lack of sensitivity or a callousness toward others
  • Overly concerned with popularity or social status
  • Becoming violent
  • Changes in behavior
    • Withdrawing from friends and family
    • Laughing or smirking excessively while online, but they won’t show you what’s funny
    • Becoming secretive
    • Hiding their device or switching screens when you’re close
  • Using their device at all hours of the night
  • Getting unusually upset if they can’t use their device
  • Using multiple accounts or accounts that are not theirs
  • Increasing behavioral issues or disciplinary actions
  • Changing friend groups

The hard thing about these changes in your kids are that these are also “normal” teen behaviors and changes. It’s hard to know what’s normal and what’s a warning sign that needs your attention.

I can help.

To prevent bullying

Your child and their friends need to know they’re being watched by you. Just like you taught them HOW to cross the street, you’re going to teach them how to use this powerful technology.

  • “Friend” or “Follow” them on their social media accounts
  • Use a monitoring app (I recommend Bark) to alert you if your child is sending/receiving inappropriate content
  • Have open communication about their highs and lows, online and offline

If your teen gets bullied, here’s what they need to know: 

  • Take a Screenshot immediately (or a photo with another phone)
  • Tell a trusted adult
  • Report it to the game or social media platform (with username and screenshot)
  • Report it to cell phone carrier if appropriate (text message)
  • Report it to school
  • Delete and Block the bully
  • Get off the device/Turn it off
  • May need to delete account
  • Contact police if appropriate
  • Do something offline, like take a walk. Alone or with a friend or parent.

Another Family’s Perspective on Bullying

My heart goes out to Achea Redd and her family. They watched their son get broken down and lose self-confidence due to bullying. Here is their story. It addresses what parents can do about a child being bullied.

“No matter your situation, it’s time to up the ante and get involved. Talk to the teachers, other parents and administration. Be very vocal. Change starts with conversation. You could even start an anti-bullying or wellness initiative. The more involved you are, the better. Do not let yourself feel like you’re a burden to the school if you sense something is awry. You need to be in touch with the school and work together to make sure your child is safe.” – Achea Redd

Bullying is unfortunately running rampant in the world today. It is vital to offer support your children and communicate with them often so that they know you are their biggest fan and will always be there to help when they need it.

Would you like to put together a personalized plan for how you could strengthen your family? Book a free Getting Acquainted call here.

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