The American Psychological Association’s definition of bullying includes the use of “aggressive behavior intended to cause distress or harm.” It can take on many forms, including teasing, name-calling, exclusion from a social group or activity, bullying regarding one’s identity (e.g. race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.), cyberbullying, as well as physical bullying.
The research on bullying shows that boys tend to report being physically bullied more than girls, while girls report social bullying (e.g. rumor spreading, etc.) more than boys. Either way, it is not specified to one social group and in fact, occurs across settings, as well as racial, religious and economic divides. About two-thirds of all secondary school students report experiencing bullying at some point.
The effect of bullying is vast; school avoidance, lowered self-esteem, increased rates of depression, anxiety, feelings of loneliness and thoughts of suicide. Bullying events continue to be linked to the occurence of several young people’s suicides globally.
Encourage your children to go to you, or to another trusted adult if they are ever being harassed or hurt by others. Ensure that they know adults are better equipped to deal with such problems. Listen to your child. If they are saying something’s happening in their life, more likely than not, it is and they are being affected. In handling the situation yourself, remain composed, mature and responsible, as you also want to be a model for your child on handling difficult situations.
Let children know that telling adults is not tattling and it is, in fact, the right thing to do! Fighting violence with violence won’t solve the problem. While children may be required to defend themself in the moment they are being bullied, once safe, they should tell an adult.
Remember the buddy-system, where you were paired with someone else in your class and told to look out for each other on field trips and other class activities? Similarly, children should be encouraged to develop and maintain friendships where each child looks out for the others. Bullies are less likely to target groups.
If it’s safe to do so, a child can stand up to a bully by telling them, in a calm voice to stop what they are doing and then walk away from the situation. By remaining calm, it will throw off the bully, whose main goal is to elicit an emotional response from the victim.
Kid Friendly Alert: Stop Bullying Now! A website for children and parents, courtesy U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Includes animated short webisodes, games and advice.
Caregivers should ask their children’s schools to conduct comprehensive, school-wide bullying prevention programs, which have been shown, through research, to significantly reduce incidences of bullying. Some mental health, as well as law inforcement professionals are equipped with knowledge to carrying out such programs.