Bullying is a problem through most middle to high schools in Utah but many parents are surprised to know it can begin as early as elementary school.
Bullying starts young
Bullying is most prevalent among middle school age children, but elementary and even preschool age kids can demonstrate early signs of bullying. Young children may act aggressively towards other children to get what they want or they may find that making fun of another child results in laughs from peers. While preschool age children may not have the understanding needed for their actions to constitute deliberate bullying, if unchecked, their behavior may develop into worse conduct as they enter grade school.
Kids at risk of being the bully
Once kids enter elementary school, they begin to observe more how their behavior affects their peers. While this could help kids develop more empathy and concern for others, it can backfire by showing children how to best bully those around them. There are several reasons why a child bullies another:
• They may be mimicking behavior seen at home;
• They could be using bullying to get attention or higher social standing amongst their peers;
• They could hurt another because their own self-esteem is low;
• Or they may have underdeveloped empathy, leaving them unable to see how their behavior is affecting others.
Kids at risk or being bullied
With every bully comes a victim. Sometimes there are multiple victims to one bully but usually there is a single child being picked on, and oftentimes by more than one of their peers. According to stopbullying.gov, “young people who are perceived as different from their peers are often at risk for being bullied.” Some examples of why certain kids are bullied include:
• A child who is naturally taller or built bigger than their classmates;
• A student with disabilities;
• Those who have non-traditional families including children of divorcees;
• A child who isn’t involved with local religious groups;
• Children of ethnic minorities;
• Kids who are naturally quiet or withdrawn, seen as easy targets that won’t fight back.
Prevent bullying at home
Parents are encouraged to teach their children empathy and compassion for others and to nip any signs of bullying in the bud as soon as they occur. Bullying that is not resolved can lead to suspension or expulsion from school and criminal charges if physical harm or threats occur or if electronic devices are used to torment others. Parents whose children are facing charges related to bullying should consult legal counsel from a juvenile defense attorney.