Adolescence is an extremely difficult time in a child’s life. They’re on the cusp of developing who they are and who they want to be. In addition to that, fragility of their self-esteem is at an all-time high.
As parents and caregivers, we want our children to succeed and grow to their fullest potential. But, a big factor unfortunately comes into play when children attend school or are around other children. Bullying is and has been a major source of stress for children. It affects not only a child’s self-esteem, but hinders proper emotional growth as well. The effects are long-lasting and could quite honestly stunt a well-rounded educational advancement.
“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. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.
In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:
- An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
- Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.” (Stopbullying.gov)
Looking at the above definition of bullying, take yourself back to elementary/middle and high school. Maybe you were bullied – or were a bully yourself. Regardless of your position, someone was hurt in the process. We need to collaborate and form a stronger foundation for our future adults. They need to know that not only is it okay to speak up, but that something will be done about it, sans retaliation.
Chances are, you’ve experienced some form of bullying in your lifetime. Bullying consists of, but is not limited to:
“Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:
- Inappropriate sexual comments
- Threatening to cause harm
- Leaving someone out on purpose
- Telling other children not to be friends with someone
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Embarrassing someone in public
- Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes:
- Taking or breaking someone’s things
- Making mean or rude hand gestures” (Stopbullying.gov)
I know firsthand how distracting and difficult just coping with one of the forms of bullying can be. Imagine dealing with two or three of them on a daily or weekly basis. How can a child actively and consistently learn and grow in these conditions? In most cases, the emotional and mental well-being of children isn’t fully formed at that point to be able to completely brush it off or ignore it. Even if the maturity level of the child is advanced, there will be detrimental thoughts that follow.
- “Around half of teens have been the victims of cyber bullying
- Only 1 in 10 teens tells a parent if they have been a cyber bully victim
- Fewer than 1 in 5 cyber bullying incidents are reported to law enforcement
- 1 in 10 adolescents or teens have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken of themselves without their permission, often using cell phone cameras
- About 1 in 5 teens have posted or sent sexually suggestive or nude pictures of themselves to others
- Girls are somewhat more likely than boys to be involved in cyber bullying.
- Over 80 percent of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for cyber bullying
- About half of young people have experienced some form of cyber bullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly
- Mean, hurtful comments and spreading rumors are the most common type of cyber bullying.” (Bullyingstatistics.org)
The million dollar question is, “How can we prevent this from occurring?”
Some ways to tackle cyber bullying are:
- “Talk to teens about cyber bullying, explaining that it is wrong and can have serious consequences. Make a rule that teens may not send mean or damaging messages, even if someone else started it, or suggestive pictures or messages or they will lose their cell phone and computer privileges for a time.
- Encourage teens to tell an adult if cyber bullying is occurring. Tell them if they are the victims they will not be punished, and reassure them that being bullied is not their fault.
- Teens should keep cyber bullying messages as proof that the cyber bullying is occurring. The teens’ parents may want to talk to the parents of the cyber bully, to the bully’s Internet or cell phone provider, and/or to the police about the messages, especially if they are threatening or sexual in nature.
- Try blocking the person sending the messages. It may be necessary to get a new phone number or email address and to be more cautious about giving out the new number or address.
- Teens should never tell their password to anyone except a parent, and should not write it down in a place where it could be found by others.
- Teens should not share anything through text or instant messaging on their cell phone or the Internet that they would not want to be made public – remind teens that the person they are talking to in messages or online may not be who they think they are, and that things posted electronically may not be secure.
- Encourage teens never to share personal information online or to meet someone they only know online.
- Keep the computer in a shared space like the family room, and do not allow teens to have Internet access in their own rooms.
- Encourage teens to have times when they turn off the technology, such as at family meals or after a certain time at night.
- Parents may want to wait until high school to allow their teens to have their own email and cell phone accounts, and even then parents should still have access to the accounts.” (Bullyingstatistics.org)
‘Traditional’ bullying can be addressed with these options:
- Encourage kids to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied. The adult can give comfort, support, and advice, even if they can’t solve the problem directly. Encourage the child to report bullying if it happens.
- Talk about how to stand up to kids who bully. Give tips, like using humor and saying “stop” directly and confidently. Talk about what to do if those actions don’t work, like walking away
- Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other kids.
- Urge them to help kids who are bullied by showing kindness or getting help.
- Talking about bullying directly is an important step in understanding how the issue might be affecting kids. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but it is important to encourage kids to answer them honestly. Assure kids that they are not alone in addressing any problems that arise. Start conversations about bullying with questions like these:
What does “bullying” mean to you?
Describe what kids who bully are like. Why do you think people bully?
Who are the adults you trust most when it comes to things like bullying?
Have you ever felt scared to go to school because you were afraid of bullying? What ways have you tried to change it?
What do you think parents can do to help stop bullying?
Have you or your friends left other kids out on purpose? Do you think that was bullying? Why or why not?
What do you usually do when you see bullying going on?
Do you ever see kids at your school being bullied by other kids? How does it make you feel?
- Help kids take part in activities, interests, and hobbies they like. Kids can volunteer, play sports, sing in a chorus, or join a youth group or school club. These activities give kids a chance to have fun and meet others with the same interests. They can build confidence and friendships that help protect kids from bullying.
- Kids learn from adults’ actions. By treating others with kindness and respect, adults show the kids in their lives that there is no place for bullying. Even if it seems like they are not paying attention, kids are watching how adults manage stress and conflict, as well as how they treat their friends, colleagues, and families.” (Stopbullying.org)
Follow these measures – before bullying becomes a problem. These tips are not given to encourage a one-time discussion with your children or children you may supervise. Have this discussion often. Let children know that not only is it not okay in any way, but by taking a stand, bullying can be prevented.
Every child has the right to prosper in an environment that doesn’t weaken them.