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Dealing with Bullies

Going back to school means facing many challenges both academically and oftentimes socially. Unfortunately, for many kids, a big part of these social challenges is bullying. In fact, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP):

“Surveys indicate that as many as half of all children are bullied at some time during their school years, and at least 10% are bullied on a regular basis.”

Bullying can have devastating consequences, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and thoughts of suicide.

Potential Signs

Here are some warning signs that your child might be a victim of bullying:

– Withdraws socially
– Feels isolated and sad
– Exhibits mood swings
– Threatens violence
– Doesn’t want to go to school
– Unexplained bruising
– A drop in grades; learning problems
– Changes in social life

How to Help Your Child

The AACAP recommends:

• Ask your child what he/she has already done and whether that’s worked.
• Tell your child to walk away from a bully and seek help from the school’s staff.
• Teach your child to be assertive.
• Encourage your child to be with friends, because it’s less likely he/she will be picked on in a group.
• If you notice that your child is having trouble academically or has withdrawn, seek a mental health professional early on.

How to Approach School Staff

The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests:

• Record details about bullying incidents along with meetings with school personnel. Ask your school to also keep records of any incidents against your child.
• Talk with your child’s teacher about the following: what the teacher has observed; what he/she will do to investigate the bullying and stop it; ask if your child seems isolated.
• Always follow-up with school staff and see the principal if there’s no improvement. If that doesn’t work, keep going up the hierarchy to the superintendent.
• Put complaints in writing.
• Be persistent.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines cyberbullying, or electronic aggression, as:

“any kind of aggression perpetrated through technology—any type of harassment or bullying (teasing, telling lies, making fun of someone, making rude or mean comments, spreading rumors, or making threatening or aggressive comments) that occurs through email, a chat room, instant messaging, a website (including blogs), or text messaging.”

Though traditional forms of bullying are still more common, cyberbullying is becoming an increasing concern. In fact, researchers have found that, like traditional bullying, cyberbullying is linked to depression, decreased grades, peer violence and suicide. But, unlike classic bullying, cyberbullying can seem more intense, because it occurs at home, it’s far reaching, often anonymous and might be harsher. An article in the New Scientist provides more detail into this phenomenon and its devastating effects.

Additional Resources

Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use
Resources on Cyberbullying
Dealing with Bullying
Tip Sheet for Kids
Parenting Tips on Bullying
Parenting Tips: Do’s and Don’ts (p. 8-9)
More Advice

Dealing with Bullies

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Dealing with Bullies. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 26 Aug 2008)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.