UI expert comments on how to handle bullying - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UI expert comments on how to handle bullying

IOWA CITY (KWWL) -- Bullying, no matter what form, has no place at school or in cyber space. But in order for parents to help prevent their children from being bullied or bullying, it is important to first understand why it occurs.

Clinical psychologist with University of Iowa Children's Hospital, Tammy Wilgenbusch, Ph.D. said, "Bullying can start at any age but it increases and then peaks in early adolescence, between sixth and ninth grades. At that time, children are developing their personalities and independence so they may be more likely to take their insecurities out on or try to wield power over others. By later adolescence, they have a better sense of self and are less likely to take insecurities out on others." 

Bullying is a negative or aggressive act that is systematic and ongoing. It can be instigated by one person or a group of individuals. Children who are bullied can develop personality or temperament changes, such as withdrawal, sleep or appetite changes, and decreased academic performance.

"When bulliers get a reaction, they are more likely to continue to bully. Encourage your child to ignore the teasing or come back with a quick-witted, non-threatening response. 'Agreeing' with the bullier's comment and making a joke can take the power out of the comment," Wilgenbusch said.

When it comes to physical bullying, however, it is best to report attacks. "If the aggression is physical, the bullier needs to face consequences," Wilgenbusch said.

Parents can meet with teachers and school personnel to develop a 'no-tolerance" system allowing the students to feel comfortable when a report of bullying is made.

Wilgenbusch emphasized that bullying prevention may require school-wide changes in the environment. "The change needs to take place at all levels -- from the principal to the students -- to create an environment where bullying is not appropriate and instead focus on positive interactions," she said.

Wilgenbusch also added that bullying to hurt someone's status with a social group, called "relational bullying," is much more common because of the Web and access to blogs and social networking groups.

Wilgenbusch and colleagues recommend limiting computer access in bedrooms or isolated areas. Having a computer in the open allows more interaction and opportunities for parents to monitor behavior.

If parents learn their child is bullying, they should talk to them and let them know it is not appropriate, Wilgenbusch said. "You can't just tell them to stop. You need to really talk with them to help them learn to empathize with the other person and to think about why they're bullying and what they are getting out of it."

To learn more about how to prevent bullying, visit http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov or http://www.safeyouth.org.

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