This is part four of a six-part series on bullying. Read part one or here. gave two terrifying stories about children committing suicide due to being bullied, and listed ways bullying impacts children.
Now, the questions are what can be done to prevent bullying, and why are my children or students even being bullied?
There are several effective ways to end bullying, but an important place to start is to know that most bullying happens without the knowledge of teachers and parents, and that many victims are very reluctant to tell adults of their problems with bullying. Children may have been threatened "if they tell" an adult what is going on, they may feel ashamed that they are being bullied, or, based on past experience, they may feel as though adults are unwilling or unable to help the situation. The Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System (formerly the London Family Court Clinic) also states that,
"Adults must re-examine some of their own beliefs with regard to interpersonal behaviour before they can intervene effectively. Many teachers and parents tell children not to "tattle," and to resolve their problems themselves. In the bullying situation, though, there is a power imbalance of some kind which ensures that the victim always gets the worst of the interaction. The victim and bully both need intervention in order to stop the pattern."
Why is your child or student being bullied? I cannot offer an exact answer to that question, but I can give you examples for characteristics your child may or may not have that encourage an established bully. The typical victim of bullying has an insecure personality, has fewer friends than their average classmate, is "different" in one way or another, is physically weak, or has extremely over-protective parents.
Some researchers believe that a child's lack of assertiveness and security mayserve as a cue to bullies that the child is a "perfect victim. Victims that already have fewer friends may be perceived by their peers to already be "socially rejected," and are therefore easier to pick on or tease. That determination, whether or not it is concious, often occurs before bullying even begins. I know that as the good parent I'm positive you are, you want to protect your child from anything negative ever happening to them - but in some cases, parents that attempt to keep a "perfect harmony" with their children are making a bullying situation worse instead of better. Those children tend to be unsure of how to handle conflict and are more likely to be victimized by bullies.
Again, I'd like to stress that these are only EXAMPLES as to why your child or student MIGHT be being bullied. These are basic ideas, and sometimes, there simply is not a concious reasoning.
Although it is difficult for you to monitor your children at all times, it is extremely important to pay close attention to possible cyberbullying incidents involving their children, especially if their kids are younger. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) gives parents control over what information websites can collect from kids.
Communicate with your children.
Be aware of where your children go online. Familiarize yourself with the technology they are using.
Develop and enforce rules. Work together and come to a clear understanding about when, where, and for what purpose phones and computers can be used. Develop clear rules about what is and what is not appropriate online. Decide on fair consequences and follow through consistently.
If you know or suspect your children are being cyberbullied, take quick action.
Empathize with your child. Tell him or her that cyberbullying is wrong, that it is not their fault, and that you are glad he or she had the courage to tell you about it. Do not assume that your child did something to provoke the bullying. For instance, do not ask things like, “What did you do to aggravate the other child?”
Work together to find solutions. Ask your children what he or she thinks can be done to help, and reassure him or her that the situation can be handled and still keep them safe.
Block the person who is cyberbullying your children. Many websites and phone companies let you block people. Cyberbullying may violate the “Terms and Conditions” of these services. Consider contacting them to file a complaint.
Be Informed – Learn about your school’s policy toward bullying.
Reach Out – Get in touch with professionals who understand bullying.
Speak Out and Connect - with other parents or community members who care about creating a safe, positive environment for kids.
Be Alert – When the circumstances are violent or dangerous, involve law enforcement officials. Some adults are hesitant to take this step, but it can be necessary for preventing violence and breaking the cycle of bullying.
For younger kids, the best way to solve a bullying problem is to tell a trusted adult. For teens, though, the tell-an-adult approach entirely depends on the bullying situation.
Parents should contact school staff each time their child informs you that he or she has been bullied. PACER Center has created template letters that parents may use as a guide for writing a letter to their child’s school. These letters contain standard language and “fill in the blank” spaces so the letter can be customized for your child’s situation. Various versions of the letters are available here.
If you are concerned your child is being bullied, but are not sure, pbskids.org has an age-appropriate online program available for the topic.
Schools play an important role in ensuring that activities of kids, teens and young adults are in a safe environment, in school or in cyberspace.
Educate students, teachers, and other staff members about cyberbullying, its dangers, and what to do if someone is cyberbullied.
Discuss cyberbullying with students. They may be knowledgeable about cyberbullying and may have good ideas about how to prevent and address it.
Be sure that your school’s rules and policies address cyberbullying. Closely monitor students’ use of computers at school. Use filtering and tracking software on all computers, but don’t rely solely on this software to screen out cyberbullying and other problematic online behavior. Investigate reports of cyberbullying immediately.
Closely monitor the behavior of the students involved at school for all forms of bullying, being especially vigilant during transition times.
Strictly enforce the school's anti-bullying policy.
Employ or suggest employing a program in your school to help prevent bullying.
Two examples of such programs that may help you are the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, or "ASAP," A School-based Anti-Violence Prevention Program. ASAP involves and instructs all administration, teachers, the school's support staff, students, parents, the community, most importantly, bullying victims. It develops awareness and professional development on violence in relationships and encourages a safe-school climate and a zero-tolerance for violence. A copy of this program and an accompanying video can be ordered here.
If you are concerned your students are being bullied, but are not sure, pbskids.org has an online program available for the topic.
As any child can become a victim, any child can also become a bully. It could be the waif-like second grader, the big sixth-grade boy, the child with a disability, the popular girl, the loner. They can come from any background, race, income level, family situation, gender, or religion. Research has shown that despite their diﬀerences children who bully typically have one or more of the following traits.
- Watch for signs that your child may be bullying others. Using verbal or physical aggression to deal with conflict, acquiring items that belong to others, and talking about getting even with others.
- Make it clear to your child that you will not tolerate this kind of behavior and arrange for an effective, non-violent consequence. Praise the efforts your child makes toward non-hostile behavior as well as for following home and school rules. Keep an on-going dialogue with your child.
- Talk to your child’s teachers and administrators. Frequent communication is important.
- Increase supervision of your child’s activities and whereabouts and who he or she is associating with.
- Monitor your own behavior and aggression and provide appropriate models of conflict resolution.
Help your child learn to stop bullying. Talk with your child, teach empathy, respect, and compassion, and teach by example. Make your expectations clear and provide clear, consistent consequences for bullying. Be realistic, provide positive feedback, and if need be, seek help. You may also need to conﬁrm that your child’s behavior is, indeed, bullying and not the result of a disability.
Part five discusses how those being bullied can help themselves and others they know that may be being bullied.