By Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Unfortunately, bullying is far too common these days. It seems like there's a headline in the news every day after a child brings a gun to school to threaten others, a child is beaten into a coma by bullies, or a child even takes his or her own life after being bullied.

Bullying is defined as "any repeated negative activity or aggression intended to harm or bother someone perceived by peers as less physically or psychologically powerful than the aggressor." In other words, bullying is when one child repeatedly picks on another. A child who's being bullied typically feels helpless and often doesn't even talk about being bullied. Bullying also typically happens while other children are watching.

The American Academy of Pediatrics wants pediatricians to take an active role in discussing bullying with children and their parents in hopes of preventing the problemg in schools. As the incidence of bullying has increased, the consequences are becoming all too common. In most cases, bullying does not lead to headline stories, but rather may be heralded by children who have frequent headaches, tummy aches, anxiety about school, or even refusal to go to school and frequent absences.

Children who've been bullied admit to feeling depressed or sad. Children may be bullied in many different ways, including physical bullying, verbal, social bullying, or a combination of all three. Children feel helpless against bullies and may not report the behaviors to parents or teachers.

Children must be taught about bullying and be ready to protect themselves. As with so many issues with child rearing, children who have quality family time with dinners or family evenings for exercise or watching a movie have more conversations with their parents. Ask your children how things are going at school. Question them about how the kids in the class act toward one another, then ask them if they feel as if anyone is being bullied or picked on.

Bullying is different from playground "fights" or teasing. It's persistent and malignant. Explaining the difference to your children is important to help them understand bullying. Open conversations will hopefully enable your children to come to you for help if they feel like they're being bullied or know of bullying.

The newest and perhaps one of the most harmful forms of bullying is via cyberspace. A study done in 2007 looked at electronic bullying among middle school students. Victims reported that instant messaging was the most common method used to bully, followed by chat rooms, email messages, websites and text messages. As electronic media continues to grow and be used at younger ages the importance of parents discussing "etiquette" in cyberspace can't be emphasized enough.

Teach children to read what they've written aloud before sending a message, and to think if they would be comfortable saying the same thing to someone in person. The anonymity and emotion evoked from a text message may not be realized until it's too late. Social skills online are equally as important as those within the home and school.

We need to be aware of the recent increases in bullying and support interventions to decrease aggressive behavior. Bullies need to be accountable for their behavior and there need to be clear consequences for bullies both at home and school. It takes "a village" to change behaviors, and this behavior cannot be tolerated!

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Parenting - Putting A Stop To Bullying