October is National Bullying Prevention Month. As a teacher and a mother, I am constantly thinking of how life differs since I was young girl. You see, I am one of those Millennials — I experienced the dial up internet, AOL Instant Messenger, and I was a part of the first generation who were affected by bullying and harassment in person and on the internet during those crucial developmental adolescent years. How have things changed? Sadly, with the use of smart phones, children and adolescents can experience bullying and harassment 24/7. There is never a break. Now is more important than ever to teach our children how to prevent bullying and how to help others from bullies, but what can you do to help?
1.Understand the correct verbiage.
Quite often, I hear parents saying their child was bullied when their child had one argument on the playground with a classmate. Knowing the correct verbiage is helpful for both children and adults so that it doesn’t minimize the behavior. “Rude, Mean, or Bullying: A Child Therapist Defines the Differences” is a great resource to check out. Otherwise, here is a list of information on bullying and cyberbullying according to StopBullying.gov:
- Bullying – aggressive repetitive (or can be repetitive) behavior with an imbalance of power (stronger physically or mentally than another, older versus younger, popular versus unpopular).
- Verbal – teasing, name-calling, taunting, or threatening someone with their voice or with writing
- Social– exclusion or telling others to exclude someone, spreading rumors, embarrassing someone in public
- Physical– rude hand gestures, taking or breaking someone’s personal belongings, kicking, hitting, tripping, spitting, etcetera..
- Cyberbullying– Bullying that takes place on computers, smart phones, or tablets via social media, messaging, or e-mail.
2.Know your school’s policy for bullying and discuss them with your child.
It is the school’s job to not only create a safe environment for their students, but to also have a bullying policy in place. The bullying policy must be shared with the parents and caregivers of the children attending the school. At the beginning of the year, students typically learn about the policies as well.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Do you know the bullying policy for your child’s school? If not, do you know where to find it?
- Has your school adopted a cyberbullying policy?
- What should you do if your child is being bullied outside of school hours on school property?
- What should you do if your child is being cyberbullied? Or, what do you do if your child is the cyberbully?
3.Create a home filled with empathy, openness, love, and acceptance.
Children learn by example; if they see you being kind and welcoming to others, they are more likely going to do the same thing. Teach empathy so your children will create strong relationships with others. It is important to have hard discussions about what to do during a bullying experience (whether your child is a bully, the victim, or a bystander), and to be open and available if they need help processing a situation.
Sometimes, it is easier to talk about situations when reading a story or watching a movie about someone else’s experiences. Check out the following links for book suggestions:
4. Teach your children about strength in numbers.
According to the American SPCC, 57% of bullying stops after people intervene within ten seconds. Teach your child to be observant on what is going on around them, include rather than exclude, speak up to bullies, and how to get help from a trusted adult if they do not feel comfortable to help.
5.Monitor technology use.
When I was teaching, I saw third and fourth graders with smart phones and Facebook accounts. It is important to not only teach your children how to use this type of technology, but also to monitor how they are using technology and how much they are using it. Create boundaries to ensure that your child is being safe; you may be the “uncool mom” checking to see what they are doing, but that’s your job!
Please know that you will not catch everything. New apps are being created each day and it is hard to keep in touch with the hottest new social media app. This is why it is important to have taught your children how to use technology correctly, advocate for others, and to get help from an adult if they see people bullying others.
Do you have any other suggestions for National Bullying Prevention Month? Please share with us in the comments!