Bully? Victim? Bystander?
It’s rough out there. If you’re not being bullied, chances are good you know someone who is. Even if you’re the one doing the bullying, you’re not alone. And there are people who can help.
What is bullying?
Bullying is ANY hurtful behavior that is done on purpose to harm another person. Bullying can take many forms, such as verbal, physical, relational and cyberbullying. It can make kids feel scared, lonely, embarrassed, sad and even sick.
The first thing is to stay safe. That might involve simply avoiding contact with your bully or not engaging with the bully. Talk to someone you trust and seek help from an adult. Report cyberbullying and keep evidence such as emails, texts, posts, etc. Do not respond to the cyberbully and block them if the bullying continues.
If you’re a witness to bullying, it’s important to remember there are no innocent bystanders. If you laugh at the bully or egg him on, you’re a bully too. Take action by doing something to help get the victim away from the bully or report the bullying to a teacher or other adult.
Reference: American Psychological Association online article: How parents, teachers, and kids can take action to prevent bullying. Content contributed in part by Erica Maniago, Ph.D.
The first line of defense
If your child indicates he or she is being bullied, assure your child that it was the right choice to tell you. Deal with the situation in a responsible and confidential way. Parents can help their children learn ways to handle their anger or frustration and how to resolve conflict in nonaggressive ways.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, maintain open communication and stay informed about your child’s life. Your child may be a victim of bullying if your child tries to avoid going to school, loses interest in schoolwork or begins to perform poorly, or displays unusual changes in temperament.
Be familiar with technology and set boundaries for use. Educate your child on appropriate online behavior and supervise his/her activities online. Set up proper filters and place computers in public areas. If bullying occurs, document all messages and activities and block the bully from further contact. Contact the police when physical threats are made or other aggressive messages are sent.
References: (1) National Association of School Psychologists, Bullies and Victims: Information for Parents (PDF) (2) American Psychological Association, Bullying: What Parents, Teachers Can Do to Stop It (3) Principal Leadership, September 2008; Cyberbullying Content contributed in part by Erica Maniago, Ph.D.
Safe schools are everyone’s responsibility
Teachers hold the most influence in reducing bullying in schools. Create a safe and respectable classroom by having students develop their own code of conduct. Celebrate diversity in your classroom. If you witness bullying as it’s occurring, stop the bullying immediately. Talk to all participants, including bystanders. If a student reports bullying to you, never ignore or downplay the incident. Follow up on all reported incidents.
Appropriate responses to bullying do not fall into a “one size fits all” model. Intervention approaches will depend in part on the age of the students, the type of bullying that is occurring, the number of students involved and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Follow your school’s policies for reporting bullying and seek support from administration when needed.
Investigate all reports of cyberbullying. When cyberbullying takes place on campus, schools are obligated to take action. However, even if the cyberbullying occurs off site, schools have a responsibility to become involved.
References: (1) Stopbullying.gov (2) American Psychological Association article: Bullying: A module for teachers (3) National Association of School Psychologists article: Bullying prevention and intervention (4) American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force (2008). (5) Are zero tolerance policies effective in the schools? An evidentiary review and recommendations. American Psychologist, 63(9), 852-62.
Content contributed in part by Erica Maniago, Ph.D.