Bullying and cyber bullying have begun receiving national attention, due in part to many of the incidents being caught on tape and broadcast on YouTube. Legislation has been passed in several states in an effort to curb bullying, however eliminating the behavior completely seems to be an insurmountable task. For the disabled teen, bullying may be part of their everyday lives, especially if they are unable to speak up for themselves. It is unfortunate that many disabled teens suffer in silence because they are afraid or unable to put an end to the tormenting from insensitive and uncaring peers.
Bullying is when an individual is being picked on and intimidated either physically or mentally by another person or persons. Bullying can start out as one teen making fun of another, but it can quickly escalate to threats, physical confrontations and in many cases, cyber bullying. A cyber bully can intimidate their victim on the Internet and by cell phone, which gives their tormentor access to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Bullying and Depression
Teens who are being bullied don’t always confide in their parents or caregivers. It can be hard for them to admit that they are being bullied. They may think that the bullies will eventually leave them alone and find someone else to torment. Unfortunately, victims of bullying may become worn down and depressed as the result of relentless harassment. Having to constantly be on their guard can leave a teen feeling exhausted and worried about the next round of attacks. A depressed teen may exhibit certain behaviors that can alert a parent or caregiver that something is wrong. The following are signs that a teen is suffering from depression:
- Not sleeping or excessive sleeping
- Change in appetite
- Change in normal behavior. Many depressed individuals become irritable or are quick to anger
- Not enjoying activities that they previously enjoyed
- Seeming agitated, restless or angry
- Unexplained headaches or body pains
- Difficulty concentrating or performing simple tasks
- Unexplained crying spells
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Constant fatigue
- Feelings of worthlessness and dwelling on past failures
- Avoiding social contact
Teens who are experiencing depression should talk to a trusted adult friend, faith leader or school counselor. If they have suicidal thoughts they may also call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and talk to a trained counselor. All communication with the National Suicide Hotline is confidential
What Parents Can Do
Parents may notice extreme changes in their child’s behavior, eating and sleeping habits. In addition, a child’s grades may begin to slip as a result of a lack of sleep and an inability to fully concentrate on their studies. Bullying is stressful and can consume a child’s attention from the moment they wake until they go to sleep at night and they may even experience nightmares as a result. If you suspect that your child is being bullied, there are several things you can do to end the bullying:
- Talk with the principal or superintendent of your school district. Don’t wait to address the situation until it escalates. It is important to make authorities aware of the bullying as soon as you’ve been made aware of the situation. In addition, you may ask that the school counselor or psychologist be part of this discussion.
- Speak with your child about how they are being bullied. Is it occurring on the Internet? Are they receiving threats on their cell phone? Parents can be a buffer to assist in stopping cyber bullying. Internet accounts can have privacy settings adjusted and offenders can be blocked. Cell phones can also be set to block bullies, or a new cell phone can be purchased with a new phone number to stop harassing phone calls.
- If a child receives a threatening email, print it off as evidence. In addition, screen shots of Internet websites that have been created to harass and intimidate victims should be printed. Web addresses (URL address) of videos of a child being harassed should be given to authorities.
- When a school doesn’t take the concerns of a parent seriously, the harassment may be reported to local police. This is especially important if a child has been physically assaulted. Print outs of emails, Internet websites and Internet video URLs should be given to authorities.
What Teens Can Do
It is important to let a trusted adult know that you are being bullied. A bully usually doesn’t stop until someone makes them stop. Some teens are afraid to tell a teacher or school counselor for fear that the bullying will get worse, not better. With laws in place now to protect students from being bullied, it is to a student’s benefit to alert school administrators to the problem, even if they have to let the trusted adult do it for them. Bullying can escalate into physical confrontations and Internet “flame” websites. The law is on your side to protect you from individuals and their accomplices from doing you harm.