Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

What to Do About Teen Bullying

In order to understand how to handle bullying that your son may be experiencing, it is important to understand exactly what bullying is. The media attention on bullying in recent years has shed new light on its harmful effects, but what is bullying, really? According to, a website set up to address bullying in our society, there are several aspects to a given situation that must be present to meet the definition. For instance:

  • The behavior must be unwanted by the victim. When two boys are insulting each other for fun, teasing one another in a way that might seem offensive to others, the behavior is not considered bullying.
  • The behavior must be aggressive. Aggressive behavior might include threatening, shaming or calling upon a difference in the amount of power one teen possesses over another. The difference in power might be real (an older, larger child against a younger, smaller one) or perceived (one teen is a member of the “in” crowd, while the other feels inferior due to social status within the community).
  • The behavior must be repetitive. A one-time incident based upon a specific situation, such as a fight in the school cafeteria, even if it includes aggressive behavior, may not be bullying. If there is a potential that the behavior will continue, however, it could be considered bullying after all.

Sometimes Ignorance Is Bliss

If you’re a parent, you may have advised your child to simply ignore his bully by turning around and walking away. Bullies may feed off the attention they receive by shaming others, so if the desired results are not found in the behavior, they may stop. If there is a physical aspect of the bullying, this approach may be less effective, but it is as good a place to start now as it was when you were a child, according to the National Association of Social Workers.

Tell Someone if You Are a Victim of Bullying

There is a huge difference between “tattling” in preschool and telling someone in a position of authority when bullying is a problem. Telling a teacher, coach or parent is a way of protecting oneself. Make sure you let your child know that you are available to listen anytime he needs to talk about what is happening in his life and that you will not take steps that place him at risk. For instance, according to Kids Health, it is possible in some situations for teachers to address issues of bullying without ever revealing the identity of the person who brought the matter to their attention.

Cyberbullying Can Be Dangerous

According to the National Crime Prevention Council, cyberbullying can be a very real problem in a virtual world. Cyberbullying occurs when one person uses technology to threaten, embarrass or otherwise intimidate another person. It can occur when one person impersonates another through social networking sites, for instance. It can be as simple as posting a video online, or it can be as involved as harassing someone via text message or email. The Internet provides a certain amount of anonymity because even if an individual is sending messages using their real name, or a screen name that is readily identified with them, they are not using the language in a face-to-face setting. They may feel braver or more easily aggressive because of the non-personal nature of the situation.

If your child is the victim of cyberbullying, be sure to keep a record of the events each time the bullying occurs and share these incidents with someone in a position of authority, such as the police or school authorities. If your teenage son is suffering the psychological aftereffects of bullying, or if he’s turned to drugs or alcohol in an effort to cope, the program here at Muir Wood can help. Call now.