Recognizing What Bullying Looks Like at Each Age

Girls gossipingPeer cruelty is a problem and appears to be starting earlier. Though survey results do vary, by some estimates, one in seven American schoolchildren is either a bully or a victim. And the cruel behavior increases with age. A recent study prepared for the American Psychological Association showed that 80 percent of middle school students admitted to bullying behavior in the prior 30 days. The more we know about bullying, the better we will be able to parent our children.

So tune in closer to your child. Please. Repeated bullying causes severe emotional harm and erodes your child’s fragile self-esteem. Boys and girls are also bullied differently: girls are more likely to be victims of emotional and verbal bullying while boys are usually bullied by physical harm or threat. But whether the bullying was verbal, physical or relational, the long-term effects are equally harmful. Both boys and girls reported high levels of emotional distress and loneliness as well as lower self-esteem, loneliness, anxiety and depression.

Not all aggressive acts are bullying. Make sure you understand the definition.

If your child is bullied it means that peers are intentionally causing her pain. Bullying is repeated, conscious act of aggression with negative intent. There is also a power imbalance – the bullied child is targeted because they cannot hold their own.

Make no mistake: those cruel, aggressive habits are learned and should never be tolerated. Bullying also varies by ages and genders. What follows are the most common types of bullying and what it looks like by different ages and stages.

The Five Most Common Types of Bullying

There are five distinctly different types of bullying. A bully can “attack” her victim:

  1. Verbally (spreading rumors, saying prejudicial comments, delivering cruel remarks)
  2. Sexually (making sexual comments or gestures)
  3. Physically (hitting, slamming)
  4. Emotionally (excluding, humiliating, threatening, extortion, hazing)
  5. Electronically (cell phone, text-messaging, email or website).

Bullying by Stages and Ages

Bullying also takes on different forms at different ages. Here is what bullying looks like during the preschoolers years, school age and preteen/teens years. Of course, nothing is set in stone so your child’s experiences may differ but here are typical expectations:

1. Bullying During Preschool

These are the ages bullying behaviors are first learned because kids learn it works to get their way. Beware, new studies are showing that bullying is starting much earlier (20 percent of kindergardeners engage in bullying; an Australian study found 3 and 4 year olds engaging in peer cruelty). Little ones are imitators — watch what they imitate and stop it, ASAP! In the young set:

  • Bullying is mostly physical (biting, pinching, kicking, or shoving) and usually not intentional(the true definition of bullying).
  • Aggression is mostly due to impulsivity and the inability to regulate emotions. Do not allow aggressive behaviors or cruelty in any form. They easily become habits.

2. Bullying During School Age

  • Verbal bullying (saying mean comments, put downs and taunts) is prevalent.
  • Physical bullying continues with younger school age students.
  • Around fourth grade social exclusion (leaving kids out and knowingly hurting their feelings) begins.

3. Bullying During Preteens and Teens

Bullying peaks during these years-especially during the tween years-and is also the most vicious. Average middle school student experiences at least one verbal harassment per day. Though adults big concerns generally regard cyberbullying, research shows that most bullying starts face to face. By nature, bullying is a problem with dysfunctional relationships. The most common types of bullying (though not limited to these) are:

  • Relational aggression, rumor spreading and emotional bullying are common amongst girls.
  • Electronic bullying (via text, IM, pagers, cell phones, websites, Facebook, and emails) also begins.
  • Bullying turns to sexual harassment. Forty percent of fifth through either graders say they’ve been sexually harassed by peers (mostly boys).

While you can’t always be there to step in and protect your child there are ways to help your son or daughter be less likely to be victimized in the first place. Your first step is to get educated! A search in my blog will reap dozens of other articles on bullying. I am currently writing a book, The Complete Educator Guide for Bullying Prevention that will be available from Free Spirit Publications in Spring 2016.

***************************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at

The Adolescent Brain – A Kid’s Perspective

Teenager with booksThe adolescent brain: one of the most complex and confusing, yet, majestic things in existence. This article isn’t so much about the teenage mind itself but rather a book about the adolescent brain and the importance of keeping your child’s brain healthy. The Owner’s Manual for Driving your Adolescent Brain, written by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. and Terrence Deak, Ph.D. is an insightful book that gives expert advice on how an adolescent’s brain works and how to nourish it to its full potential.

Throughout this article you may wonder how I came upon this book and why I took such an interest in it. Well, my mom also writes for this website and she is working on a master’s in public health so, naturally, my father and I are her outlets and guinea pigs for random health related information. She apparently thought it would be a good idea to get me a cliché “your changing body” book which turned out to be well written and interesting.

The book touches on three main points: nourishment, enrichment, and protection plus lots in between. There are pages on sleep, social interaction, stress, and puberty. It also offers a very technical aspect Young girl thinking with glowing brain illustrationincluding information on what happens in your brain during adolescence and information on different lobes of the brain such as the amygdale and the process of myelination and certain hormones such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone.  This aspect is communicated through the use of clever analogies that maintain a relatively common theme and visual aids throughout. For instance, associating ear bud wires and the rubber that encases them with axons(wires) of neurons(ear buds) and myelin(rubber coating).

This book was definitely an eye opener for me. Many things that I do were either acknowledged as positive or negative actions for my body. For instance, I have learned that procrastination will only ever harm you, even if in the short term it seems like an acceptable alternative. Procrastination can affect sleep, stress, and incidentally, the development and long term healthiness of your brain. I was also surprised at how accurate the book’s description of the experiences a teen will have during puberty and adolescence was. The Owner’s Manual for Driving your Adolescent Brain talked about how an adolescent may try to find new experiences or expand their social circle. I was able to link several supporting examples to this from my life in the last year alone. For example, last year I became really Adolescent Brain book cover - finalgood friends with several girls at school. I have to admit, these doctors really get me. I mean they would make ideal parents because you would be able to share your life with them and they could give legitimate feedback. The only downside is that they may publish your life experiences in a study.

As an adolescent I need to take the initiative to take care of my brain and body, and to parents I would suggest that you take the initiative to inform your child about some of this information. Purchasing The Owner’s Manual for Driving your Adolescent Brain may also be a good idea seeing as how it goes more in depth with these topics and others than I have now. You can obtain this book at many retailers and book stores as well as at The Owner’s Manual for Driving your Adolescent Much like a car owner’s manual, though, it helps to refer to this book several times and “fix things under the hood as necessary”.

Eating Disorders Explained

girl watching a red appleFind out the facts about eating disorders, including what they are, who’s affected by them and what to do if you need help and support.

What is an Eating Disorder?

There are several different types of eating disorder, the most common being anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Eating disorders are mental health conditions that all involve an unhealthy relationship with food and eating, and often an intense fear of being overweight. If you have an eating disorder you may experience one or more of the following:

  • You have a preoccupation and concern about food and gaining weight.
  • You would like to lose weight even though friends or family worry that you are underweight.
  • You let people around you think you have eaten when you haven’t.
  • You’re secretive about your eating habits because you know they’re unhealthy.
  • Eating makes you feel anxious, upset or guilty.
  • You make yourself vomit or use laxatives in order to lose weight.

What Causes Eating Disorders?

It’s unlikely that an eating disorder will be the result of one single cause. It’s much more likely to be a combination of many factors, events, feelings or pressures that lead to you feeling unable to cope.

These can include low self-esteem, problems with friends or family relationships; the death of someone special; problems at school, college, university or work; lack of confidence; or sexual or emotional abuse. Many people talk about simply feeling too fat or not good enough. You might use food to help you cope with painful situations or feelings without even realising it.

In situations where there are high academic expectations, family issues or social pressures, you may focus on food and eating as a way of coping.

Traumatic events can trigger an eating disorder. These might include bereavement, being bullied or abused, a divorce in the family or concerns about sexuality. Someone with a long-term illness or disability (such as diabetes, depression, blindness or deafness) may also have eating problems.

Some studies have also shown that there are biological factors involved. In other words, some people will be more likely to develop an eating disorder because of their genetic make-up.

Who is Affected by Eating Disorders?

Anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of age, sex or cultural or racial background. The people most affected tend to be young women, particularly between the ages of 15 and 25, and around 10% of people with eating disorders are men.

What Should I Do if I Think I Have an Eating Disorder?

People with eating disorders often say that the eating disorder is the only way they feel they can stay in control of their life. But, as time goes on, it is the eating disorder that starts to control you. You may also have the urge to harm yourself, or misuse alcohol or drugs.

If you think you have an eating disorder, talk to someone you trust. You may have a close friend or family member you can talk to. There are also a number of organisations that you can talk to, such as the eating disorders charity beat (0845 634 1414) or in the US at the National Eating Disorders Helpline (1-800-931-2237)* and the Samaritans (08457 90 90 90) or Samaritans USA (1-800-273-TALK)*.

Your GP (family doctor*) can also give you advice and talk to you about getting a diagnosis and the possible treatment options, which will depend upon your individual circumstances and the type of eating disorder you have.

Worried that a Friend or Relative has an Eating Disorder?

If you are concerned about a friend or family member, it can be difficult to know what to do. It is common for someone with an eating disorder to be secretive and defensive about their eating and their weight, and they are likely to deny being unwell.

For tips on how to approach and talk to your child about eating disorders, go to Advice for parents. For advice for teens on how help a friend see Supporting someone with an eating disorder.

You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from beat by calling their helpline on 0845 634 1414. They also have a designated youth helpline on 0845 634 7650. (*or in the US you can call an advisor on the National Eating Disorder Helpline at 1-800-931-2237)

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers. 

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 10-05-2015 to 10-11-2015

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Health News: A Pediatric Cancer Drug Three Decades in the Making

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
10 Tips to Help Boost Your Teen’s Selfie Safety IQ
Please Read! This could just save your teens life!

AAP Changes Advice for Parents on Screen Time – Finally

Happy child staring tablet.This May, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) convened an invitation-only Growing Up Digital: Media Research Symposium. This two-day event brought together leading social science, neuroscience and media researchers, educators, pediatricians, and representatives from key partner organizations. The problem they were to address: the most well-known of guidelines discouraged “screen time” for children under age 2 and limited “screen time” to two hours a day for children over age 2 …a bit archaic considering they were written prior to the introduction of the 1st iPad and the proliferation of apps aimed at young children. We even discussed the two-hour limit here at Pediatric Safety in a post called “Do we Shut off the TV until they Reach 2?”  As I’m sure you can imagine…we disagreed.

So in May, the AAP met to evaluate available data, identify research gaps, and consider how to provide thoughtful, practical advice to today’s parents based on the evidence.  Not surprising – by the end of the meeting – new recommendations emerged.  (Note: a detailed overview of the meeting with recommendations for pediatricians, educators and parents is available here).

In a summary article entitled “Beyond ‘turn it off’: How to advise families on media use” presented in the AAP News by authors Ari Brown, M.D., FAAPDonald L. Shifrin, M.D., FAAP and David L. Hill, M.D., FAAP,  the following 12 key messages for parents emerged:

  1. Media is just another environmentChildren do the same things they have always done, only virtually. Like any environment, media can have positive and negative effects.
  2. Parenting has not changed. The same parenting rules apply to your children’s real and virtual environments. Play with them. Set limits; kids need and expect them. Teach kindness. Be involved. Know their friends and where they are going with them.
  3. Role modeling is critical. Limit your own media use, and model online etiquette. Attentive parenting requires face time away from screens.
  4. We learn from each other. Neuroscience research shows that very young children learn best via two-way communication. “Talk time” between caregiver and child remains critical for language development. Passive video presentations do not lead to language learning in infants and young toddlers. The more media engender live interactions, the more educational value they may hold (e.g., a toddler chatting by video with a parent who is traveling). Optimal educational media opportunities begin after age 2, when media may play a role in bridging the learning achievement gap.
  5. Content matters. The quality of content is more important than the platform or time spent with media. Prioritize how your child spends his time rather than just setting a timer.
  6. Curation helps. More than 80,000 apps are labeled as educational, but little research validates their quality (Google Scholar). An interactive product requires more than “pushing and swiping” to teach. Look to organizations like Common Sense Media ( that review age-appropriate apps, games and programs.
  7. Co-engagement counts. Family participation with media facilitates social interactions and learning. Play a video game with your kids. Your perspective influences how your children understand their media experience. For infants and toddlers, co-viewing is essential.
  8. Playtime is important. Unstructured playtime stimulates creativity. Prioritize daily unplugged playtime, especially for the very young.
  9. Set limits. Tech use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits. Does your child’s technology use help or hinder participation in other activities?
  10. It’s OK for your teen to be online. Online relationships are integral to adolescent development. Social media can support identity formation. Teach your teen appropriate behaviors that apply in both the real and online worlds. Ask teens to demonstrate what they are doing online to help you understand both content and context.
  11. Create tech-free zones. Preserve family mealtime. Recharge devices overnight outside your child’s bedroom. These actions encourage family time, healthier eating habits and healthier sleep.
  12. Kids will be kids. Kids will make mistakes using media. These can be teachable moments if handled with empathy. Certain aberrations, however, such as sexting or posting self-harm images, signal a need to assess youths for other risk-taking behaviors.

Congratulations parents!  While “official AAP recommendations” will likely not arrive until 2016, you may rest easy knowing what I’m guessing you have always known – that it is what your child is doing more than how much time they are spending in front of a screen that matters…and the fact that you care…and are asking the questions…and are monitoring…is half the battle.

AMC is Expanding Sensory Friendly Films – See Pan Twice!

AMC Entertainment (AMC) is expanding their Sensory Friendly Films program, in partnership with the Autism Society!  Now families affected by autism or other special needs can have TWO opportunities each month to enjoy a family-friendly movie in a safe and accepting environment – and sensory friendly screenings of movies for older audiences are also being added to meet the needs of others on the autism spectrum. The traditional family-oriented movies will still be screened on Saturday mornings, while films for older viewers will be shown two Tuesdays each month at 7pm.

Sensory-Friendly-Films-logoAs always, the movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Pan-PosterDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing Pan this Saturday, October 10th at 10am – and on Tuesday, October 13th, at 7pm (all local times). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming later in OctoberGoosebumps (Sat, 10/24) and Jem and the Holograms (Tues, 10/27)


Editor’s note: Although Pan has been chosen by the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for fantasy action violence, language and some thematic material. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.