Bullying: A Serious Problem for Kids with a Chronic Condition

Children with special health needs, such as a bleeding disorder, may be at an increased risk of being bullied because of issues like physical vulnerability, social skill challenges, and intolerant environments. Kids with hemophilia may become a target when they use crutches, are limited to certain activities during recess/gym classes, have a visible PICC line/port, or miss several days of school due to bleeding episodes.

Diane Horbacz shares important information about cyber bullying below. Diane has her Masters in Special Education and spent many years teaching. Her specialty was working with children who have Emotional & Behavioral Disorders. For the past ten years, Diane has been developing and presenting educational programs specifically for the bleeding disorders community. She is the mother of three children; her two sons have hemophilia.

Bullying means that kids with bleeding disorders may become a target when they use crutches one day and the next day they do not, are limited to certain activities during recess and gym class, have a visible PICC line/port, or miss several days of school.

Bullying is aggressive, intentional behavior that hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally, which involves an imbalance of power. Most often, bullying is repeated over time and has been around for many years.

Thankfully, we now have laws and policies that promote awareness, educate school staff and encourage advocacy.

Many people do not realize that bullying comes in different forms that include physical (hurting a person’s body or possessions), verbal (saying or writing mean things), and social (hurting someone’s reputation, embarrassing someone, or spreading rumors).
These days, kids not only socialize in the physical world, but also in the virtual world. This has created what is now known as cyber-bullying. Most of us – including most kids – do all kinds of things online, like socializing via email, posting and sharing pictures and videos, having profiles on social networks, and sharing information with friends  and family.

These ways of socializing and communicating can be fulfilling,  but yet they can also come with certain risks.

As a parent, educating your kids about cyberbullying is the first step to creating awareness around this important issue. Talk to your kids about the risk when being online. Start early and create an honest, open environment. Initiate conversations and make sure to communicate your values. Ask them to tell you if an online message makes them feel threatened or hurt. Keep an open channel of communication with your child, and hopefully he or she will come to you.

For younger or school age kids:

  • Starting with very young kids, it is a good idea to supervise them while they are online – maybe even choosing the sites they can visit.  As they are ready to explore a little more, consider limiting their exploration to sites you’ve already checked out and that you think are OK for their educational and entertainment value.
  • Be patient:  Most kids need small bits of information repeated – and often – for it to really sink in.  Keep talking; chances are it will pay off.
  • Kids need different levels of attention and guidance at different ages – and it is really up to you to decide where your own kids fit.
  • Communicate your values – and how they apply online:  You are the only one in a position to guide your kids this way.  Be very clear with kids about this.  It will help them make smarter decisions when they are faced with tricky situations.

For teens

By the time kids are teenagers, many are ready for more independence from their parents. They are starting to form their own values and reflecting those of their friends. But that does not mean there is no point in talking with them. Teens have access to the Internet through their mobile devices, phones, computers, and their friends computers, so it is really hard to watch what they do.  It does not hurt to reinforce ‘good citizenship’ messages with teens, along with three important messages that many need to hear:

  • Not all information is credible;  just because it is posted, does not mean it is so.
  • Once they post something, there is no taking it back.  It is out there in the world.
  • No matter how impersonal it seems, screen names, profiles and avatars belong to people with real feelings. Treat them the way you’d like to be treated.