Today’s students are increasingly at risk of being bullied, and the effects of bullying can be devastating.
Bullying is a problem that affects millions of students of all races and classes. One in four kids is bullied and 42 percent of kids have been bullied while online. According to data from STOMP Out Bullying, the leading national anti-bullying and cyberbullying organization for kids and teens, bullies are more likely to skip school, drop out of school, smoke, drink alcohol, get into fights and be arrested at some point in their lives. Many kids who have experienced bullying show decreases in academic achievement and school participation. Some kids are so tormented that suicide has become an alternative for them and some bullying targets resort to violent retaliation.
On the first Monday of October, STOMP Out Bullying’s Blue Shirt Day World Day of Bullying Prevention raises awareness by giving kids a voice, making it the day that bullying prevention is heard around the world.
October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, and this year on Oct. 3, students, schools and adults will wear blue shirts in solidarity so everyone hears the message about bullying prevention.
Education is another important element of the campaign, which strives to promote awareness, encourage communication and ultimately prevent bullying by sharing tips such as these:
Understand bullying behaviors.
There are many different types of bullying. Bullying is defined as intentional, aggressive and repeated behavior that involves an imbalance of power or strength. It can take several forms, including physical (hitting, punching, beating); verbal (teasing, name calling, threats); emotional (intimidation, social exclusion, threats); and cyberbullying (online harassment, hate messages, threats, impersonation and other digital abuse).
Learn to recognize signs of bullying.
Students who are victims of bullying may come home with torn or missing pieces of clothing, books or other belongings. They may have unexplained cuts, bruises and scratches. Bullying victims may appear sad, moody, teary or depressed and may seem anxious and suffer from low self-esteem. Bullying can manifest physical afflictions, too, such as headaches or stomachaches, trouble sleeping or frequent bad dreams and a loss of appetite.
Have conversations often and approach your concerns with sensitivity.
Bullying can cause shame and embarrassment. When talking with a child, don’t just ask if they’re being bullied. Instead, ask questions such as: “I’ve heard a lot about bullying in the news. Is that going on at your school?” or “Do you know anyone who is being bullied?”
Know what steps to take when bullying happens. If you suspect a child is being bullied at school, it is never a good idea to approach the bully’s parents. Rather, prepare documentation of what has been occurring, with as much detail as possible. Schedule a meeting with the principal and ask—don’t demand—for their help. Document the action steps agreed upon at this meeting and follow up to ensure changes are implemented and the bullying ceases. In some cases, if laws have been broken or there have been threats against a child, it may be appropriate to also involve local law enforcement.
Get involved in the anti-bullying movement. Visit www.stompoutbullying.org to purchase a blue shirt, plus find more tips and resources to help prevent bullying.
Rebecca Cowley writes for Family Features.