Life is busy. Events, celebrations, and deadlines fight for space on the family calendar. It’s so easy to zoom through October, which also happens to be Bullying Prevention Month.
But please don’t. Because your child needs you to know a few things and chances are, he or she is not going to bring it up these facts around the dinner table*:
- Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 U.S. students say they have been bullied at school.
- 28% of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying and 20% of U.S. students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying.
- Approximately 30% of young people admit to bullying others.
- 15% of high school students (grades 9–12) were electronically bullied in the past year. However, 55.2% of LGBT students bullying online.
- 6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools and 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% witness bullying once a week or more.
What does all of this mean? It means that your child likely falls in one of three categories: 1) is a victim of bullying 2) is bullying someone else 3) is witnessing bullying. All three carry their own emotional and physical risks.
Prevent Bullying: Choose One Thing
So rather than play detective, lecture your kids, or lay awake wondering how to best parent through the complexities of bullying today, try committing to doing just one thing. And what happens if we all choose to do just one of these things? Together, we can put a considerable dent in the devastating effects of bullying.
Look up, look around. Commit to becoming more aware and encourage your kids to practice this too. Look up from your phone, look around, and make a difference. Bullying can take place in school, outside of school, and on the school bus. Bullying also happens wherever kids gather in the community such as ball fields, the mall, or parks. And of course, cyberbullying — a significant type of bullying — happens online. Just being more aware of different kinds of bullying and where bullying occurs online, can help diminish its impact. A recent study from McAfee reveals that cyberbullying starts early and students see and experience it on different mediums. Almost one out of every four (22%) students have been cyberbullied, and shockingly 44% are experiencing or seeing it before the 9th grade. Facebook (69%), Instagram (46%) and Snapchat (38%) are mostly used for cyberbullying.
Celebrate differences. It’s a fact: Young people who are perceived as different from their peers are often at risk for being bullied. Ask your kids to share with you some differences they notice in others and discuss how those differences make that person unique, courageous, creative, or beautiful. With understanding, rather than criticism, we can open our children’s minds to the gifts we all possess. A 2014 McAfee study revealed that in 2014 cyberbullying tripled with 87% of youth have witnessed cyberbullying versus the prior year. The reasons? Of those cyberbullied, 72% responded it was due to appearance while 26% answered due to race or religion and 22% stated their sexuality was the driving factor.
Make an impact — in ten seconds. Studies show that bystanders who intervene on behalf of young people being bullied make a huge difference. When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time. This doesn’t mean encouraging your kids to put themselves in danger; it merely means teaching them how to step in and help deflect an escalating situation online or off.
Expand your reading. The world is changing quickly around us and digital culture shifts can and will affect your family. It’s a chilling reality that digital disaster is just one click away. Choose just one book this month to strengthen your perspective on digital issues. Internet safety expert Sue Scheff looks at online shaming in Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate, written with Melissa Schorr. The book covers a variety of topics, including revenge porn, cyberbullying, and backlash-inspiring gaffes, and offers strategies for protecting yourself and your family online. It will open your eyes to the cultural ripple effect of our words and actions online and is a powerful family read.
Define bullying clearly for kids. Bullying is unwanted aggressive behavi54eor; observed or perceived power imbalance; and repetition of behaviors or high likelihood of repetition. Bullying can be direct — in the physical presence of a target — or indirect in the form of rumors or innuendo. There are many different modes and types of bullying. It can also be physical, verbal, relational, or damage to property. So what your kids call others just being mean, is bullying. Teach kids to understand it when they see it and how to handle it and report it.
Have the conversation. Bullying may cross your mind but have you taken the time to talk about it with your kids? Make October the month you do just that. Parents can help prevent bullying by keeping the lines of communication open with kids. Talk about bullying and encourage your kids to make a difference by being part of the crowd that refuses to bully others, speaks up if they are bullied, and understands how to help others.
Teach empathy and kindness. These two words have earned new meaning in today’s digital world. We’ve seen so much hate, judgment, and bullying that these two words have become two core digital prescriptions. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. One of the best ways to grow your child’s empathy muscle is to role-play. Find teachable
moments in which empathy has been overlooked. Has a friend been neglected for a party invitation? Is someone not present being mocked or talked about cruelly? Look for opportunities to explain and illustrate empathy. Model kindness for your kids in ordinary moments throughout your day. It can be as simple as returning your shopping cart, helping a neighbor carry in packages, or anonymously paying for a person’s coffee in the car behind you — these simple acts reiterate the importance of being aware of others and finding small ways to inject kindness into your community.
With the added element of technology, bullying has reached epidemic proportions and has played out in some surprising (and tragic) ways across the headlines. The effects of bullying can cause depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties and poor school performance in kids. Want to do more? Here’s a list of ways you and your family can take part in October’s Bullying Prevention efforts.