By Tiffany Harper, LCSW, Courier & Press, July 11, 2017 –

When people think of bullying, they often picture physical bullying, such as knocking books out of someone’s hands, tripping them  or intimidating them.  Bullying can also take other forms, however.

Social bullying, also known as relational aggression, is a form of bullying that has grown with the boom of social media and cell phones.  It is relational in nature and causes harm by damaging someone’s social status.  It is often done covertly to avoid detection by adults.

Examples of social bullying are:

  • Posting about someone on social media, directly or indirectly naming the victim
  • Texting rude or negative comments
  • Excluding someone from a peer group
  • Refusing to allow a peer to sit with one’s group
  • Convincing others not to be friends with a peer
  • Starting and/or spreading rumors
  • Indirect communication directed at a peer such as eye rolling, laughing

This type of bullying is more common in females and can start as early as kindergarten. Today’s society has displayed social bullying as entertainment in movies such as “Mean Girls,” where it is glorified but then neatly resolved in the end. This does not usually happen in real life.

Victims can struggle emotionally with negative effects, including depression, social anxiety, hostility and low self-esteem.  There can be large shifts in one’s social network, as this type of bullying often results in loss of friends.  This can be devastating to a young person, as their focus shifts from family to friends during adolescence.

If you find your child in a situation like this, be aware that the innate desire to protect your child could cause you to act quickly and impulsively and ask questions later.  Since it is important to develop and maintain an open and trusting relationship with your child, it is imperative to react slowly and carefully. Whether you found out about your child’s bullying on your own or your child opened up, your response can be instrumental in getting them to talk further.

Listening with empathy is the  first  step.  Allow your child to tell you what has been going on and try to ask any questions you have with controlled emotion.  Avoid placing blame or giving your perspective right away.