4 Tips for Parents and Teachers to Prevent Bullying

Bullying in Schools
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Over the past decade, schools and families have become well-versed in what bullying is, how to spot it, and ways to prevent it. Many schools have even adopted anti-bullying programs and countless organizations have formed to promote positive learning and living environments for children and adults. 

However, despite the advancements we have made, bullying is still an unfortunate experience that many students are forced to endure during their school years. In fact, 20% of students in grades 6-12 report being bullied and more than 70% of students say they have seen bullying at their schools.

1. Understand Bullying and How to Spot It

It's important to truly understand what bullying is and is not. Nearly every child will experience a negative interaction with a peer, but not every negative interaction is considered bullying. According to StopBullying.org, "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."

Bullying can manifest itself in a variety of ways, ranging from teasing, name-calling, and threats (verbal bullying) to exclusion, rumors and embarrassment (social bullying), and even through hitting, tripping, damaging property (physical bullying), and more. Sites like StopBullying.org are great resources for both schools and families to educate themselves. 

2. Find the Right Educational Environment 

Not every school is right for every child, and sometimes, an individual needs to find a new place for study. A large, understaffed public school is always more likely to have instances of negative behavior like bullying than a smaller school. By nature, any form of intimidation tends to flourish in a setting where adult supervision is non-existent or severely limited. Many students report feeling safer in smaller schools where the student/teacher ratio is lower and class sizes are smaller.

One option some families consider is enrolling at private schools, which frequently provide a better setting in which to control bullying. School faculty and staff can supervise students more effectively in a more intimate academic setting. At a small school, children are not merely faces and numbers, but real people with real needs which can be addressed by professional staff. If your child's school isn't offering the best environment for her to grow and thrive, it may be time to consider switching schools

3. Pay Attention to What Our Children Watch and How They Play

The media can play a role in influencing children's behavior. It's no wonder our children are primed to engage in negative behavior with so many movies, television shows, videos, songs, and games promoting negative behavior, sometimes even celebrating it! It is really up to parents to control what their children watch and how they take in the storylines they are experiencing.

Parents should engage in regular conversation about what certain actions are bad and what is truly acceptable behavior. Understand right and wrong versus entertaining and hilarious can be a tricky line to walk these days, but it's an important skill that children need to learn. The same thing applies to video games and even smartphones and tablets. Above all, adults need to personally set good examples. If our children see us intimidating and harassing others, they will imitate what we do, not what we say.

4. Educate Students on Proper Online and Social Media Behavior

Children born after 1990 are well-versed in the use of electronic communications. They use text messaging and instant messaging, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat... you name it. Each of these digital outlets provides an opportunity for students to engage in improper behavior online. Parents themselves need to become educated on what their children are using to communicate with friends, and how these outlets work. Only then can parents truly educate children on not just proper usage, but also repercussions of improper usage, including potential legal ramifications. 

The Executive Director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, Nancy Willard, lists seven types of cyberbullying in her presentation notes for Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens, Cyber-Secure Schools. Some of these forms of intimidation have been around for many years. Others such as harassment and outing are older concepts which have been adapted for electronic use. Sexting or sending nude photos or sexual conversations via cellphone is another form of electronic intimidation that teens and even pre-teens today are engaging in, and need to better understand the negative results of their actions. Many children don't think about the potential for accidental sharing of images, the viral nature of inappropriate media being shared, and even the potential for inappropriate messages to resurface years later.

If you suspect bullying is occurring at your school, the first step is to contact a teacher, medical professional, parent, or the administration at your school. If you need additional help or someone is in immediate danger, call 911. Check out this resource from StopBullying.org on where to go for help for other situations related to bullying.

Article Updated by Stacy Jagodowski