While October may bring to mind all things fall, like apple picking, hay rides, and Halloween, it is also designated as Bullying Prevention Month, a time to start and keep talking about the harmful effects of bullying and what we can do about it. We know that being a teen can be challenging and stressful in and of itself. We believe that feelings matter and that feelings are the gateway to connecting with and motivating teens to make positive changes in their lives. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re being bullied, being the bully, or watching stressful situations unfold at school or online.
According to the Pacer Center’s Bullying Prevention Program, around 13 million students in the US will be bullied this year. That’s nearly 1 in 3 students! These students are more likely to have lower self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and lower grades.
And we now know that bullying encompasses much more than physical actions, like pushing or shoving. Cyber bullying involves sending hurtful text messages, tweets, Facebook posts, picture/ video messages, etc. and can occur long after last period. Stopbullying.gov reports that teens who are cyber bullied are more likely to use alcohol and drugs, skip school, face in-person bullying, and receive lower grades, to name a few. It’s a vicious cycle — one that no one should ever have to go through.
For Parents and Mentors
Most of us remember the experience of being teased, humiliated or bullied, and some of us have been the victim, bystander or the bully. At its core, bullying hasn’t changed, but social media and other new trends and technologies have changed the way kids bully, get bullied, or watch it happen. Bully, an Independent Lens documentary that recently aired on PBS, depicts the painful reality of how bullying has affected five kids and their families. Adults play a vital role in staying connected to the kids they live and work with. Sometimes bullying happens in school, in families or in neighborhoods, not to mention online. No one is immune.
If you suspect that your child is being bullied, don’t tell him or her to ignore the bully. Work with school personnel to discuss next steps, and teach your child how to seek help from an adult. Continue providing a safe and loving home environment. Check out more tips here.
If you think your child may be bullying others, address the issue at home by taking it seriously and making rules about behavior. For example, if a child is bullying a family member or friend, he or she may lose rights to use the phone or internet. Share your concerns with your child’s teachers and counselors.
Maybe you’ve been bullied at school or online. Maybe you’ve texted mean things to someone. Or maybe you’ve kept walking when you saw someone being bullied or closed out of Twitter when you saw a thread of threatening tweets. It’s easy to think, “Oh it’s none of my business.”
It is your business.
If you see a fight going on–in person or online–tell an adult or someone in charge. As Pacer suggests, “If you read cyber bullying, write something nice on the target’s wall or let the person bullying know it’s not cool to make fun of people online, or you can even report in anonymously and many service providers will remove the post.”
What else can you do?
- Watch this video to get a glimpse into what it’s like to be bullied. If it’s hard for you to make it through the three minutes, imagine what it’s like to live this every day at school.
- Sign the petition to stop bullying.
- If you or someone you know is being bullied, you’re not alone. Get help here.
Remember, bullies can say and do mean things, but in the end, you have control over how you let them make you feel. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Let’s all be a little kinder to each other.
Bullying Prevention Resources
- Beyond Bullies
- Teens Against Bullying
- Violence Prevention Tips and Resources for Parents
- Bully, an Independent Lens documentary
- The Kind Campaign
- Mean Stinks
- Teaching Tolerance
- Peace First
Image copyright: yeletkeshet / 123RF Stock Photo