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School is almost out; that means many kids will be spending more time in unstructured environments, with less adult supervision and for longer periods of time.  This provides ample opportunity for bullies to choose targets.

Bullies don’t take the summer off. In fact, bullying can, and does, occur at many summer “hot spots” whether it be the pool, park, camp, day care, mall, or in the neighborhood.  Camp should be a safe haven for kids, a place where they can learn, develop, have fun, feel comfortable, and experiment with new things. Unfortunately, as schools are experiencing a rise in bullying, so are camps.  Even cyberbullying peaks in the summer as kids have more free time, often unsupervised.  Add to this how social networking sites are unregulated and any damage done by a text or picture is immediate.

Keeping kids safe during the summer months is just as important as during the school year.  Never accept bullying as a rite of passage and don’t assume it makes the victim stronger.  On the contrary, being targeted by a bully can have significant consequences for the victim. If left unaddressed, it can potentially lead to a host of other issues including as depression, eating disorders, even suicide. It is important that everyone – parents, caregivers, teachers, and camp counselors ensure that kids have a bully-free summer, especially kids who have been targets of bullying in the past.  Awareness is the first step; being proactive can make a difference.

Unless a child tells you about being bullied — or has visible bruises or injuries — it may be difficult to tell. Watch for these warning signs:

  • Effort to avoid participating in activities
  • Repeated loss of possessions or money
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Depressed, withdrawn, and/or anxious
  • Loss of appetite or complaining of stomach aches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Prefers to be alone or is always late to activities

It is equally important to know the signs of a bully.

  • Impulsive, hot-headed, domineering
  • Easily frustrated
  • Lacks empathy
  • Has difficulty following rules
  • Comes home with possessions or money that does not belong to him/her
  • Switching computer screens or closing programs when you, or others, are nearby.
  • Using multiple online accounts or an account that is not his/her own.
  • Excessive use of a computer and/or cellphone; agitation if access is restricted or denied.

Bullying is an issue that all parents should think about; don’t just wait until a situation explodes.  Reconnect with your kids as soon as school lets out and on a regular basis throughout the summer. Only consider summer activities in which your kids have an interest and where the activity is well-supervised by adults.  Know what they are doing and who their friends are, on- and off line.  Because cyberbullying is a growing problem, it’s important to talk to kids about the issue and be aware of the time they spend texting, emailing, and on social media sites.  Help them develop time management when it comes to screen time; remind them about digital etiquette.

Mark Bello has thirty-seven years experience as a trial lawyer and fifteen years as a leading expert in the lawsuit funding industry.  His company, Lawsuit Financial Corporation, provides necessities of life funding to plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. He is a Member, Justice Pac Member, and Sustaining Member of numerous state and national justice associations.

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