Bullies are individuals or groups who attack the emotional, mental, and/or physical well-being of other(s). Victims of this behavior are often bombarded with feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, fear, and anxiety. Bully behavior has gotten to a point where it is completely out of hand and needs to be stopped, as far too many recent cases have surfaced which have begun with bullying and have resulted in suicide. Survivors of bullying are often faced with irreversible emotional damage, major insecurities and paranoia disorder, and sometimes depression. One positive light surrounding the slew of tragic events we have seen involving this issue, however, is the drastic demand to put a stop to it. We are all responsible for protecting one another and for speaking up in situations where others, especially children, need help staying safe.
1: School/Community Involvement
When students do not feel comfortable and safe at school, it becomes impossible for them to learn at their highest potential. Schools need to continue to create programs that emphasize the horrifying reality of bullying. Students who have participated in bullying or have stood as silent bystanders need to become fully aware of the terrible and sometimes tragic consequences to their actions. At the same time, bully victims should be reminded and feel comfortable in knowing that they have an outlet available to them through peers and teachers, and that bullies should not and will not be tolerated. School programs can create unbelievable progress by changing the attitude and mentality of the student body as a whole. Here are two great campaigns for teacher awareness and involvement:
United Federation of Teachers
Tools for Teachers
2: Watch for Signs
Is there a child or adolescent in your life? Bullying does not just affect young children. High school and even college students also fall victim to this painful peer abuse. These students often feel embarrassed, ashamed, and confused as to why they are being targeted; it can become extremely difficult for them to discuss this very serious problem. For this reason, it is important to provide young people with a very strong support system. Whether you are a relative, neighbor, or friend, there is no shortage of support that can be beneficial and potentially life-saving. Regardless of your relationship with the child or young adult, it is important to recognize the signs of bully victims so that you can help prevent the further abuse of someone you care about.
3: Monitor Internet Activity
As parents, it is a challenge to find an appropriate balance between respecting your child's privacy and monitoring their online interactions to ensure their safety. Age appropriate guidelines should always be set in households with minors accessing the internet. (Side-note: I am shocked by the number of parents I have spoken with who were unaware of online security measures that must be taken for children. Here are some of Google's basic safety tools for keeping your kids protected on the web.) The internet has become a faceless way for bullies to torture victims. By setting time limits/frames for internet usage, it may be easier to detect if your child seems particularly distraught after spending time online.
4: Stay Positive! (Be the example your child wants to follow)
Children and adolescents are faced with many different types of pressures and stresses at a point in their lives when they are trying to discover who they are and what they want out of life. Bullies tend to have an overwhelming success in tearing down feelings of hope, positivity, and self-worth in others. It is important to create a positive environment for children which emphasizes their strengths and interests. While the severity of each situation may vary, encouraging environments allow for a better understanding of self-worth and exploration that may permit some victims the strength to brush off bully behavior to a certain extent.
5: Speak Up!
If your child was bullying a classmate, wouldn't you want to know? Children often fear the situation may worsen if they speak up about it. With so many recent cases involving bullying and self-harm/suicide, however, authorities do not take this situation lightly. They are obligated to take action and maintain the safety of the individual being bullied. If you have, for any reason, suspected that there might be a bullying problem, it is important to take immediate action by notifying the parents and teachers involved. Follow these response guidelines if you need further help approaching the situation.
Be sure to stay educated on this issue! For more tips and information, below are links to powerful anti-bullying movements:
Not In Our School