Bullying is not a solitary activity. It occurs most frequently by males, and to males, and it is often physical. Girls also experience bullying, most often verbal or emotional. Bullying occurs most frequently in grades six through eight, but it can continue through adulthood, in the workplace and via the computer. Intervention is important on both sides, as bullies do worse in school and at work and tend toward isolation, while victims of bullies suffer higher than normal levels of depression and occasionally act out violently against their bullies. Here’s what you can do to help:
1. Learn how to recognize bullying: Educate yourself on how to recognize the signs of bullying and what you can do to prevent kids from being bullied. Learn to tell the difference between bullying and harmless joking and play. Bullying is not OK. Bullying is not genetic, in other words you are not born with it in your DNA. Bullying is not relative to race, culture, or gender, and is a behavior usually taught by someone you love or trust. Bullying is not a right of passage, and is not tolerable under any circumstances.
2. Talk to your family: If you have kids, teach them that bullying is wrong. Go to StopBullying.gov to find the resources provided for bullied kids and bullied teens to help them come up with a plan for what to do if they experience bullying as a victim or an observer. You can teach your children to find a trusted adult if you see another student being bullied and not participate if a friend or group of friends are bullying another student. Encourage your children to offer themselves as a friend to a student who is being bullied with a smile or kind word.
3. Build your child’s self-esteem. Every child should have the right not to be bullied. Bullies pick on people they perceive as weak, and people with low self-esteem may go along with a bully just to be accepted. A person with a good sense of self is unlikely to bully or be bullied. Celebrate your child’s successes and work with him on his challenges to increase his confidence. Teach your children that they are powerful beings, and to use their power to respond to bullying in a positive way.
4. Educate your friends and neighbors: Take a few minutes to share this bullying information with people in your neighborhood. Encourage adults and children to speak up and stop bullying wherever they see it. Spread the word by talking to the people in your community who have the power to put an end to bullying. Print or email some of the school bullying articles or links and pass them along to your friends, neighborhood association as well as your local school district officials and political representatives.
5. Involve your local schools: It is more effective to stop bullying when everyone in the school is working toward the same goal of zero tolerance. Advocate a program in which administrators work with students to create an atmosphere of safety and accountability for everyone through school-wide assemblies and daily reminders during school announcements. You may also want to suggest that school children take the Anti-bullying Pledge from Bullying.org and that schools institute an online bully reporting program. StopBullying.gov has a wealth of free anti-bullying material aimed at helping teachers, school administrators, and students recognize and prevent school bullying.
Help stop bullying when you see it. The next time you see an innocent child being victimized by a bully, don’t let the abuse continue. Your actions will help victimized children have hope again and will pave the way for others to stop letting senseless bullying harm young lives.
~ In Memory of Jamey Rodemeyer