When children are at the playground or in the schoolyard, they can have disagreements or call each other names. Unfortunately, sometimes cruel words or actions can worsen and lead to bullying. According to Stop Bullying, approximately one in five American children between 12 and 18 have been bullied. Here is some insight into how bullying can affect your child’s self-esteem.

The Definition of Bullying

According to Health Direct, bullying is the use of words or actions to cause physical, emotional, or social harm to another person. For example, verbal bullying can include name-calling, using nasty descriptions of someone, or threatening the other person. Spreading lies or rumors, playing pranks, or publicly embarrassing someone are examples of social bullying. When bullying escalates to physical expression, it can include pushing, punching, or breaking someone’s belongings.

Children Who Are Bullied

Many children who are bullied are smaller and younger than their bullies. Some children are targeted because they have less money than their bullies. Bullies will often pick on children who are different in some way. For example, kids with braces may be a target of bullies, which need to be worn for about two years. Kids with disabilities are also at risk of being targeted.

Bullying Can Cause Anxiety

Children who become the target of bullying begin to worry about when and where they may be bullied again. This fear can build and lead to anxiety. Anxiety, in turn, can build into social anxiety syndrome. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, social anxiety disorder is an ongoing and extreme fear of being observed and unfairly evaluated.

More Reactions to Bullying

Children who are bullied may begin to believe they deserve the mean words being said about them. They may start to feel inferior to others and internalize the bullying words directed at them. Any confidence they may have had started to disappear. If they have recently made an error (like a missed basket in basketball or a poor test grade), they will feel the impact more intensely than they usually would.

Direct Results of Bullying

As children begin to feel the effects of bullying, they may start having physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, and difficulty sleeping. Children reacting to the impact of bullying may also begin to self-isolate as a defense mechanism. They may show less interest in their favorite things or their meals. Report cards will often reveal decreasing grades due to the stressful effects of bullying.

The Impact of Cyberbullying

Technology has become an essential presence in most people’s lives, and it is important to teens. Bullying words and pictures are now making their way online in practices known as cyberbullying. These online words and images can have just as negative an impact on a person’s mental health as the exact words being used in person. Teens subjected to cyberbullying are 50% more likely to report suicidal thoughts.

Helping Your Children

If you are a parent, you must let your children know they should always tell you if they are being bullied. Get as many details as possible, and always encourage your child to disregard the bully’s negative words. If bullying happens at school, check the school handbook for the anti-bullying policy. Meet with teachers, school counselors, and the principal to let them know what’s happening.

Children care very deeply about the words other children say about them. If your child is being bullied, you can be their emotional champion and use the school’s anti-bullying policy to intervene. Your love for your child may be the balm they need if they are the victim of bullying.