As New Jersey school children head back to the classroom this week, many of them may become the target of a bully. How can parents recognize the signs that their child is, in fact, the victim of a bully? What can they do to help?

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First, it's important for children to understand the different types of bullying. "Electronic bullying is something that has become very prominent in the past few years with smartphones and the internet and things like facebook," said Dr. Jennifer Caudle, family physician and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. "But, there's also the physical fighting and spreading rumors and slandering someone's reputation. Those are types of bullying as well."

Parents need to talk to their children.

"Kids need to be told not to bully. It sounds simple, but it's amazing how many times these conversations about how we should treat each other don't happen in the home. So, it's important for parents to reinforce good behaviors and good relationships," said Dr. Caudle. "It's also important for these children who are being bullied to find an adult that they trust and tell. Too often, many of these children don't tell because they are afraid of retaliation."

By sharing the information with a trusted adult, the door is open for many behavioral modifications and things that can happen in the school. It's also important for children to find friends who are like them and share common interests. "We know that kids who spend time in groups tend to have a little less bullying than children who spend a lot of time on their own," said Dr. Caudle.

If a parent recognizes that their children is being bullied, they can take the following steps:

  • Listen to your child
  • Assess the situation
  • Modify Behavior - don't use social media in a way that exposes a child. Change some things that need to be changed in terms of where a child is spending his/her time.
  • Involve the School

"There has been a lot of legislation that has asked schools to step up their anti-bullying protocols and programs," said Dr. Caudle. "Many schools have great policies about dealing with bullying. Plus, when parents go to the schools, they are able to get a lot more information about what's happening in the school environment."

As with many different issues, there are signs parents can look for if their child is being bullied. "As with many different issues, if your child was outgoing and all of a sudden is more withdrawn, if they're avoiding certain environments, if there's stress or anxiety, if they have stomach aches, are feeling sick or not feeling good all the time, those are all signs that a child may be the victim of a bully. Any time there is a change in behavior or personality, that's always a time to start asking questions and looking deeper," said Caudle.

Studies have actually shown that the children who are being bullied, as well as the victims, often have problems in the long run as a result. That can include psychological problems like depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.