Bullying prevention is perhaps more important than ever in today’s digital era, where cyberbullying in particular is a major source of stress for kids and parents as well as school administrators .
Bullying in all its forms should be taken seriously whenever and wherever it occurs. 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 and show it will not be tolerated. The following bullying prevention tips can help adults take action when a child is struggling.
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 to anyone, 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 differences, 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 a bully’s target.
2. 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. Encourage your child to interact with a positive peer group and arrange get-togethers outside of school when possible to help keep friendships strong.
3. 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? Who did you sit next to at lunch?”, etc.).
Keep the communication flowing! Challenge your kids with questions like, “How would you react if someone was unkind?” Offer tips on how to deflect a bullying situation and role play tactics such as firmly telling the bully to stop, walking away and/or finding an adult. Let your child know that you are there to support them if they are ever bullied or see another child being bullies. Talk about the importance of getting help from trusted adults when bullying occurs.
4. Monitor your child’s online activities and set clear, firm guidelines.
Cyberbullying is the use of smartphones, computers, texts, apps, etc. to bully others, and can allow bullying to take place 24/7 if left unchecked. Cyberbullying is often used to start rumors, initiate drama, post photos, etc. It can be difficult to track and find the main source of a cyberbully attack.
It is important to set strict guidelines when it comes to kids and their electronics – know the sites they’re visiting 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 their 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.
5. Model kindness.
As parents, our kids see how we engage with other people in our lives, and they learn from watching us! Find ways to model kindness, respect and empathy such as volunteering, donating and performing random acts of kindness.
6. 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.
7. Know the anti-bullying rules and policies at your child’s school.
As a parent, you want your child to feel safe and protected, and it can be emotionally painful if your child is being bullied. It is important that we work to advocate for bullying prevention and connect with other parents and staff to identify ways to make important change happen.
When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying they send the message that it is not acceptable. “KnowBullying” is a free bullying prevention 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 invite kids who sit alone at lunchtime to join their table; to engage shy kids in the hallway or class, and invite them to join group activities.
Help your child understand that by being kind and inclusive, they have the power to help give other kids a voice and a sense of belonging.
What if my child is the bully?
- Kids who possess social power and are overly concerned with their own popularity.
- Kids who have few to no friends and very little peer support.
- Kids who lack empathy and don’t identify well with the emotions of others.
As a parent, it is very distressing to discover that your child is bullying others. However, there are steps you can take to help prevent it from re-occurring:
Have an immediate, serious talk with your child when you hear bullying has occurred.
Gather all the necessary information and get the facts straight. Tell your child to explain to you their actions and why they bullied someone.
Schedule a meeting with school administration to develop an action plan for reform.
You may also consider arranging for your child to apologize to the victim and their parents, if the school and family is open to and comfortable with the idea.
Give clear expectations for behavior and conduct
Let your child know you won’t tolerate bullying and neither will the school. Follow through with strict consequences when those expectations are not met.
Keep your child busy and engaged in positive social activities!
Enroll him or her in adult-led organizations, such as after-school clubs and sports or a church youth group. This will help them focus their energies on something constructive while ensuring they have less opportunities to hang around taunting others.
Be a good role model for your kids.
Extend empathy and kindness toward others whenever and wherever you can.
Connect with others who can act as good role models to your child.
A coach, pastor, neighbor or relative who is willing to make a little time for your child can have a tremendous positive and lasting impact.
Whether your child is the bully, being bullied or simply a witness to the bullying of another child, parents and kids who work together with school administration staff and other parents can take great strides toward bullying prevention.