Children's Hospital Colorado

Bullying 101 and Prevention Tips

A teenage girl with long hair looks at her phone while two other girls watch from the background.

Bullying is, unfortunately, a common occurrence in many schools. As a parent, you probably worry about how to prevent bullying, or how to recognize the signs your child is being bullied at school. Natalie Abramson, PhD, pediatric psychologist at Children's Hospital Colorado, shares some of her insights to help put parents' mind at ease.

Three types of bullying

There are three types of bullying, according to Dr. Abramson:

  1. Social: Spreading rumors, encouraging others to reject or exclude someone, embarrassing someone in public
  2. Verbal: Threatening, teasing, name-calling, making sexual remarks
  3. Physical: Hitting, pushing, spitting, stealing or breaking others' belongings, making mean hand gestures

Physical bullying is the type of bullying that is easiest to pinpoint, but social and verbal bullying can have just as much – if not more – effect on children. Thankfully, there are a few ways parents can detect signs of bullying and possibly put a stop to it.

How to prevent bullying

Dr. Abramson shared tips for parents who want to prevent their kids from being bullied:

  1. Ask them: It's always best to have an open dialogue with your kids about things that might make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable on and off-line. Often, directly asking a child if they have been bullied or made to feel uncomfortable, threatened or unsafe online is the best way to start this conversation. Make sure your child knows he or she can talk to you about any issue whether significant or insignificant and that you will hear them out, listen and not necessarily talk back.
  2. Pay attention: Paying attention to changes in kids' mood and behavior of your kids can help you spot if something is wrong. If a child is becoming more irritable, withdrawn, sad or anxious, this can be a sign of bullying or that your child is dealing with other stressful situations in his/her life. Create a network of relationships not only among your child's peers, but also among their parents so that there are lines of communication to keep tabs on what might be going on in that circle of friends.
  3. Know their online habits: Ask your children to share with you the websites they like to visit and people they connect with online. Although close supervision is very important when children are engaging in unsafe online activities, parents can usually monitor their children's online activities simply by expressing a genuine interest in learning about what they like to do online.
  4. Set limits: Set limits for your kids on when and where the Internet and cell phones can be used. Use computers, tablets and smartphones in shared spaces at home (i.e., kitchen, den, living room) and keep children's bedrooms technology free. This creates important boundaries around technology use and will also help you better monitor your child's online activities.
  5. Talk about the risks: Talk to your child about safe and unsafe online practices. Kids may not be aware of the risks associated with cyber-bullying or other unsafe online activities. The Internet provides a sense of anonymity that can increase the risk that children will fall victim to bullying or predatory behaviors.
  6. Be open and honest: Conduct regular communication with school personnel. Ask your child's teachers, coaches, guidance counselors and other trusted adults questions beyond academics to find out how your child is doing socially and emotionally at school and within their peer groups.

Learn additional tips for keeping kids and teens safe online.

Frequently asked questions about bullying

A panel of experts from Children's Colorado recently held a candid conversation about bullying and cyberbullying. Here are the top questions from parents and answers from our experts.

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