Kids Bullying Kids. How to Stop It.

It’s easy to think of bullying as a normal part of childhood—and no big deal. After all, it’s been going on since time immemorial. The popular kids have always picked on the less popular kids. We’ve seen it at school, watched in on TV and in the movies, maybe even lived it ourselves.

So it’s easy to brush it off, to say “kids will be kids,” to tell our bullied kid to toughen up—and maybe even to be proud of our kids who bully because they are so dominant and popular.

But bullying is a big deal, not something to be brushed off. New technology has brought cyberbullying, which can be really dangerous in its anonymity and pervasiveness. Bullying does real harm.

Parents can play a crucial role—both in helping and making things worse.

In a great commentary in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Mark Schuster and Laura Bogart of Boston Children’s write about what we are learning about bullying. We know that kids who are bullied are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental and physical problems. Some even want to die—and some actually kill themselves.  But it’s not just short-term effects; bullying can lead to long-term mental and physical problems that extend long after the bullying itself has stopped. The bullies can have long-term problems too; they are more likely to have trouble with violence and other risky behaviors when they are older.

Children who are different in some way are more likely to be bullied. In one of the studies that Dr. Schuster comments on, almost two-thirds of overweight children reported being bullied at school, both by peers and by adults. In another study, a third of children with food allergies reported being bullied simply because of their food allergies. Children who are bullied for something that is part of their core identity—like being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender—are more likely to have more severe and long-term effects from bullying…

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