How bullying can affect children at different ages

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – If you think bullying doesn’t affect your kids, you might be surprised.

Experts say it can affect kids of any age.

Anchor Rhiannon Ally sat down with Pediatric Associates Natasha Burgert, MD and bullying author SuEllen Fried to discuss how bullying affects different age groups.

Bullying by age: Preschoolers

Question: Can bullying affect kids as young as 3 or 4?

Answer: “We do see kids that young that are bullies, and we do see those kids that are bullied. We do see similar characteristics whether you’re a preschooler, middle schooler, or high schooler. They’re going to be picking on them repetitively. It’s going to be very deliberate in its intent and it’s going to deliberately cause harm,” Dr. Burgert said.

Bullying by age: Elementary school students

“It’s hard to discern what really is teasing as a form of communication and when does that cross the line to bullying,” Dr. Burgert said.

Q: How do you teach your child to deal with teasing?

A: Dr. Burgert said, “It depends on the relationship you have with the person who is teasing you. I think we need to talk to our kids about what they feel comfortable with…. to give them permission to say no, I don’t like it when you call me that name.”

Bullying by age: Middle school students

Q: Why is bullying such a problem for this age group?

A: Fried said one boy told her, “Middle school is senselessly evil. When you look at the graph, it starts very young. Middle school is where it peaks, and then in high school kids start to mature. Middle school is one of the most challenging transitions. In elementary school you were more like a family. All of a sudden you have all these different teachers, different schools coming together and bullying really increases in intensity, and cyberbullying has caused unimaginable levels of cruelty, even resulting in suicide.”

Cyberbullying affects middle and high schoolers

Dr. Burgert said her patients and parents bring cyberbullying up to her often.

“It’s bad. It’s really intense. There are more apps that give you a cloak of anonymity, which as adults, with trolling and mean things we see online, it’s just ramped up when you have that cloak of invisibility. I think this is one time kids come to me and ask permission. Is it OK to put my phone away,” she said.

What if a parent suspects their child is the bully?

Fried said, “Don’t start out in a judgmental way, because most kids who are bullies are doing it from a personal stress. So start asking your child what is going on in their lives. Is there something causing them pain? You want them to know you are in their corner.”

Dr. Burgert agreed and added, “Bullying is not a phase. It’s not something they grow out of. It’s formative…. If it’s something you are witnessing with their friends or even their siblings, get help. Kids need to be taught social skills. They need to be taught empathy skills. It can be taught, and there are professionals that can help.”

For more information on Natasha L. Burgert, MD, visit:

For more information on SuEllen Fried, visit


Rhiannon Ally can be reached at

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