News ID: 200487
Published: 0637 GMT September 13, 2017

Parents increasingly fret about bullying

Parents increasingly fret about bullying

Ask parents what they're most worried about regarding the wellness of their children as a new school year begins, and stress and anxiety are high on the list. So are obesity and lack of exercise, along with smoking and alcohol and drug use.

But for several years, the top answer is the same: Bullying and cyber-bullying, wrote.

C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan found that one in three parents are concerned about their child being bullied or cyber-bullied.

Bullying is the more common of the two; it happens at recess and in lunchrooms and on buses. It's also nothing new. What has changed is awareness. It would be hard to find a school that doesn't have a specific bullying policy, as well as resources available for parents.

Cyber-bullying, however, may be the more insidious, because it is difficult for a parent to detect and can happen with little warning. Threats and harassment can all be going on in a student's life under the radar of teachers or parents. They can happen around the clock, and there are no safe havens for students.

About one in five middle and high school students is a victim of bullying, according to a 2015 study by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Girls are bullied more than boys; African-American students are bullied more than white students, who in turn are bullied more than Hispanic students; sixth-graders are bullied more than any other grade. Bullied students are five times as likely to miss school as the rest of the student population.

Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, said cyber-bulling is not an epidemic. Hinduja and his partner, Justin Patchin, have been studying cyber-bullying for years, and the numbers have held steady.

"It's not spiraling out of control, but we can agree that we want those numbers to be a lot less," Hinduja said.

Hinduja said reports on cyber-bullying exacerbate parents' concerns about their inadequacy in monitoring social media.

"The media plays on the fears of adults that are a little unfamiliar with technology, which gets them freaked out," Hinduja said about parents' worries.

Hinduja encourages parents to not be spooked by technology and demonstrate an understanding of it because "technology is here to stay." Hinduja said when parents talk with their child, it is important to remind them that if they err on the side of integrity, they will be more successful. The children must understand that every decision they make online can have far-reaching ramifications.

But nobody can control what people say about one another, and it's imperative to be able to block it out, Hinduja said.

"People are always going to talk smack, and there are always going to be haters," Hinduja said. "We can't let it get in the way of our dreams and our hopes and send us to our pillow with tears every night."

This is the 11th year the Mott Poll has surveyed a national sample of adults on the top 10 health concerns rated as a ‘big problem’ for children and teens.

Gary Freed, a Mott professor of pediatrics and the poll's co-director, said parents should regularly talk with their children — and in particular discuss internet safety — to help prevent problems.

If a parent believes their child is being bullied, it is essential to ask non-judgmental questions because it is typically not the child's fault. The more the parents find out, the better they can respond.

* Make sure your child feels safe

* Talk with and listen to your child.

* If your child is being cyber-bulled, collect evidence by printing out or taking screenshots.

* Work with school.

* Don't contact the bully's parents. Stick with official channels.

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