Bullying Prevention: What to Know
With the constant advancement in technology, bullying has now more than ever become a major source of stress for kids and parents as well as school administrators. Bullying in all its forms can be attributed to immense emotional damage for many kids and teens nationwide. This poses a great concern as research indicates that kids who are bullied are more likely to use alcohol, drugs and other substances, skip school, have poor grades and suffer from lower self esteem as well as health problems. Bullying has also been linked to suicide (Stopbullying.gov).
It is important to help our youth identify and stand up against bullying to show that it is not okay and will not be tolerated. The following are some bullying prevention tips to help parents take action when a child is suffering from being bullied.
Tips for Bullying Prevention:
1. Understand what bullying is.
What is Bullying? “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time – for example, behaviors such as name calling, harassing, assault, humiliation/shaming.” (Stopbullying.gov).
Bullying can happen anywhere at any time. However, there are additional factors that may increase the risk of being bullied. Kids who are perceived as “different” from their peers (i.e. overweight, gender identity or sexual orientation issues, those with disabilities, those perceived as unable to defend themselves or who struggle with anxiety/depression/low-self esteem) may be at a higher risk of becoming the target for a bully.
2. Talk to your child every day and find teachable moments.
Talk openly with your child about their social contact with others. Never underestimate the importance of small conversations! Engage in daily check-ins with your child after school. Ask open-ended, non-threatening questions (i.e. “What was the best part of your day? What was the most challenging?”, etc.).
Keep the communication flowing! Ask questions such as, “How would you react if someone was unkind?” Give your children tips on using tactics such as humor to deflect a situation, firmly telling the bully to stop or walking away. Let your child know that you are there to support them in the event that they are ever bullied or witness bullying of others. Explore how to stay safe and get help from trusted adults when bullying continues. Find teachable moments to “role play” with your child on ways they can respond to bullying situations!
3. Monitor your child’s online activities and set clear, firm guidelines.
The Cyberbully Phenomenon is the use of electronics to bully others, allowing bullying to take place 24/7 via social media sites, texting, tablets, etc. Cyberbullying is a tactic that’s often used to start rumors, initiate drama, post pictures, etc. It can be difficult to track and find the main source of a cyberbully attack.
It is important to set guidelines with electronics – know the sites your kids are frequenting as well as the basics of what’s being shared via texts. Know your children’s passwords in the event of an emergency and set restrictions on technology use. Teach your kids what acceptable language looks like and what your expectations are in terms of how they communicate emotions via social media. Help guide them on how to be safe and smart about what they post and say.
Know who your child’s friends are. Peers make a significant impact on our children, from values and beliefs to shared activities. Use the tried and true: “Who, What, Where, When and Why?” line of questioning when your kids are to be away from home and connect with other parents/adults for confirmation of adequate supervision.
4. Model kindness.
As parents, our kids see how we engage with other people in our lives. Kids learn from watching us! Be mindful of modeling ways to show others kindness and respect and how to have empathy. Some great ways to do this include volunteering, donating, finding ways to show kindness to others.
5. Promote healthy social skill building.
Encourage kids to engage in positive social skill building activities such as sports and clubs to build confidence and maintain positive connections with peers.
6. Know the anti-bullying rules and policies at your child’s school.
Becoming a part of the “We Will” Generation: Know your child’s school anti-bullying policies and rules. As a parent, you want your child to feel safe and protected, and it can be emotionally painful if your child is experiencing bullying. It is important that we work to advocate for safety and connect with other parents and staff to prevent bullying and identify ways to make important change happen.
When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. “KnowBullying” is a free educational app from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that is a helpful tool and source of support for parents.
Help your child envision what it might be like for another child who finds himself alone. Challenge your child to come up with different ways to help combat bullying at their school. Encourage them to sit with kids who may be alone at lunchtime, to engage shy kids in the hallway and invite them to join group activities. Help your child learn how they can help give other kids a voice.
Many youth have explored ways to create anti-bullying videos, mentor others and provide advice (Pacer’s Teens Against Bullying, for example) to help others feel less isolated and alone. Additionally, many schools have programs such as Michigan’s “Peer to Peer” Program wihch connects students with each other for support and guidance to encourage connectedness.
What if my child is the bully?
Children with the following traits are reportedly more likely to bully others:
•Possess social power and are overly concerned with their own popularity
•Have little peer support and may not identify well with the emotions of others
If you discover your child is bullying, talk with him or her and try to understand the reason behind their behavior. Develop an action plan. Understand it takes time for a person to change. Be a good role model for your kids by modeling empathy and kindness toward others. Give clear expectations/consequences, and connect with people who can act as good role models to your child.
Visit empowercounseling.org for more information!