Savannah pediatrician shares signs of bullying to look for in children

School bullying
School bullying(MGN Online / Pixabay)
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 6:40 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The story of Trent Lehrkamp, the Glynn County teen that ended up in the ICU after an extreme bullying incident, has sparked outrage and sympathy across the area.

It’s also sparked a broader conversation about bullying.

Savannah pediatrician Dr. Ben Spitalnick sees kids of all ages and he tells me that bullying is an incredibly serious and prevalent issue.

In fact, he says that statistically, 20 to 30 percent of kids are affected by bullying.

In general, Dr. Spitalnick says that girls are more affected by emotional bullying while boys usually experience more physical bullying. There are signs of bullying that parents can look out for. Physically, they can look for unexplained bruising or injuries.

Other signs could be persistent headaches or stomachaches, things that would cause a kid to miss school. There could also be behavioral signs, like dropping grades, decreased appetite, not sleeping as well, and not wanting to hang out with friends.

Dr. Spitalnick says those are all very real and common consequences of bullying and though bullying situations usually don’t enter into life-threatening territory, you have to treat each case seriously.

“It’s very uncommon they turn dangerous, but it’s hard to tell which ones are. So it’s really important that in any cases of bullying, in any cases a teen or child is showing anxiety or depression, that is treated very seriously. It’s very uncommon it’ll lead a child to self-harm or other destructive behavior, but you never know which one it’s going to be,” said Dr. Spitalnick.

Dr. Spitalnick adds that it’s very important to pay attention to your children and ask them questions about how school and life is going for them.

If you suspect that your child might be getting bullied, Dr. Spitalnick says a good way to start that conversation is asking if they are stressed about going to school, or even if they notice other kids experiencing bullying.

Often, that’ll open the door to a conversation about their own experiences with it.

“Keep in mind that most kids that are bullied are embarrassed by it, and they don’t want to disclose it, and it’s often hidden as something else, as physical signs, as headaches, as bellyaches, as dropping grades. If your child just doesn’t seem like he or she is doing as well in school or as well with friends, bullying is one of the first things you should think about- and come see your doctor,” said Dr. Spitalnick.

Dr. Spitalnick adds that it’s very rare that bullying situations enter into truly dangerous territory, but if there is a serious incident, parents should report the situation to their child’s school and possibly even law enforcement immediately.