Rogers Behavioral Health

Bullying: Rogers’ experts share possible signs and what you can do about it

Posted on 01/18/24 11:33:am
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Over the past four decades, a growing body of evidence shows the negative health consequences of bullying. Kristin Miles, PsyD, psychologist, who oversees inpatient clinical programming on Rogers' Oconomowoc campus, and Gene Yang, MD, MBA, attending psychiatrist for Rogers’ West Coast locations, answer questions about bullying and its effects.

What is bullying and how common is it?

The Anti-Bullying Alliance defines bullying as “the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. Bullying can be physical, verbal or psychological. It can happen face-to-face or online.”

The common threads are:

  • Need for power
  • Repetitive in nature
  • Causes intentional harm

The most recent CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey found:

  • 15% of high school students are bullied at school.
  • 16% of high school students were bullied online.
  • 1/3 of LGBTQ+ were bullied at school and nearly 30% of these students were electronically bullied.

An important note is the numbers may be affected due to a reluctance to participate in the survey.

What are potential signs a child is being bullied?

  • Changes in a child’s personality or mood. You may notice general irritability when that may not be their usual temperament. The smallest thing can set them off and make them upset. There's often something else bubbling underneath.
  • Withdrawal from activities they typically enjoy doing with friends or family. For example, they loved volleyball, but they don't want to participate anymore.
  • Disinterest in hobbies or independent activities. For example, your child used to love video games and they don't want to play them anymore.
  • Grades that are falling and slipping.

What are the long-term effects of bullying?

There are several long-term effects of bullying, and usually it's a mood change. The child tends to be sadder and more anxious, and it's much harder to get their mood back as quickly as you normally would. For example, you used to get ice cream together and their mood would improve, but now it isn’t that simple. When the mood change becomes chronic and persistent, the bullying is usually chronic and persistent.

One of the most severe and concerning impacts of bullying is self-harm and suicidal thoughts and/or attempts.

Why does someone engage in bullying?

There’s no simple answer as to why a person may bully. Sometimes it’s because they don't know how to interact socially or haven’t developed enough socially. They may have learned these negative behaviors from other people. It could be that they haven’t fully formed their own understanding of right and wrong.

Negative behaviors at home could be unintentionally rewarded. Think about the small child who says a swear word and everyone laughs. The laughter reinforces the swearing because it received a positive reaction.

Although there are a variety of potential reasons someone might engage in bullying, it usually has something to do with getting something that they want.

What should you do if you think your child is being bullied or bullying someone?

Whether they are the person doing the bullying or the one being bullied, be sure to have an open conversation with your kids about it to help you determine if this really is an issue that you need to be paying closer attention to as you support your child.

Also, give your child a little autonomy to decide how they want to handle the situation. However, if they're being harmed and they say they don't want to do anything, you may need to step in. Otherwise, if they want to handle it in some way and it seems appropriate, then allow them to take on some of that challenge to be their own advocate.

As your kids get older, increase general communication. Create openness by practicing non-judgmental listening so that they’re willing to share not only the day-to-day things, but also information that would be upsetting, like drug use, sexual activity, or bullying.

Build up your child to be who they are and support their identity so that they're not looking for validation from outside sources. That way they won't feel the need to either bully other people, or won’t become a victim because they don't feel confident in who they are.

None of this is easy and each situation is unique. If parents have concerns or are unsure about next steps, please consider reaching out to a mental health professional.

What are resources?

Cybersmile Foundation



Call 800-767-4411 or go to to request a free screening.