October is Bullying Prevention Month

bully1By Janae Briggs, Youth Services Outreach Case Manager

Bullying is defined as a verbal and/or physical act of aggression, done purposefully, resulting in an imbalance of power, over a period of time.

Children at Risk of Being Bullied
Generally, children who are bullied have one or more of the following risk factors:

• Are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what kids consider “cool”.
• Are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves.
• Are depressed, anxious, or have low self esteem.
• Are less popular than others and have few friends.
• Do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention. However, even if a child has these risk factors, it doesn’t mean that they will be bullied.

Children More Likely to Bully Others
There are two types of kids who are more likely to bully others:

• Some are well-connected to their peers, have social power, are overly concerned about their popularity, and like to dominate or be in charge of others.
• Others are more isolated from their peers and may be depressed or anxious, have low self esteem, be less involved in school, be easily pressured by peers, or not identify with the emotions or feelings of others.

Children who have these factors are also more likely to bully others:
• Are aggressive or easily frustrated.
• Have less parental involvement or having issues at home.
• Think badly of others.
• Have difficulty following rules.
• View violence in a positive way.
• Have friends who bully others.

Remember, those who bully others do not need to be stronger or bigger than those they bully. The power imbalance can come from a number of sources—popularity, strength, cognitive ability—and children who bully may have more than one of these characteristics.

Warning Signs
It can be hard for students to talk about being bullied. So it is very important to know the warning signs:

• Lost or destroyed clothes, books, electronics, etc.
• Bruises or injuries that can’t be explained.
• Loss of appetite.
• Mood changes and/or feelings of helplessness.
• Reluctance to go to school.
• Sudden loss of friends.
• Self-destructive behaviors.
• Poor attendance.

bully2How to Talk About Bullying
Parents, school staff, and other caring adults have a role to play in preventing bullying. They can:

• Help kids understand bullying. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bullying is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help.
• Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
• Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
• Model how to treat others with kindness and respect.

Help Kids Understand Bullying
Kids who know what bullying is can better identify it. They can talk about bullying if it happens to them or others. Kids need to know ways to safely stand up to bullying and how to get help.

• 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.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Research tells us that children really do look to parents and caregivers for advice and help on tough decisions. Sometimes spending 15 minutes a day talking can reassure kids that they can talk to their parents if they have a problem. Start conversations about daily life and feelings with questions like these:

• What was one good thing that happened today? Any bad things?
• What is lunch time like at your school? Who do you sit with? What do you talk about?
• What is it like to ride the school bus?
• What are you good at? What would do you like best about yourself?

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?
• Have you ever tried to help someone who is being bullied? What happened? What would you do if it happens again?

Get more ideas for talking with children about life and about bullying. If concerns come up, be sure to respond.

There are simple ways that parents and caregivers can keep up-to-date with kids’ lives:
• Read class newsletters and school flyers. Talk about them at home.
• Check the school website.
• Go to school events.
• Greet the bus driver.
• Meet teachers and counselors at “Back to School” night or reach out by email.
• Share phone numbers with other kids’ parents.

bully3Stop Bullying on the Spot
When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time. There are simple steps adults can take to stop bullying on the spot and keep kids safe:

• Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.
• Separate the kids involved.
• Make sure everyone is safe.
• Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
• Stay calm. Reassure the kids involved, including bystanders.
• Model respectful behavior when you intervene.

Avoid these common mistakes:
• Don’t ignore it. Don’t think kids can work it out without adult help.
• Don’t immediately try to sort out the facts.
• Don’t force other kids to say publicly what they saw.
• Don’t question the children involved in front of other kids.
• Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately.
• Don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.

Get police help or medical attention immediately if:
• A weapon is involved.
• There are threats of serious physical injury.
• There are threats of hate-motivated violence, such as racism or homophobia.
• There is serious bodily harm.
• There is sexual abuse.
• Anyone is accused of an illegal act, such as robbery or extortion—using force to get money, property, or services.

Davis School District is rolling out an anonymous tip-line for Davis County students (Safe2Talk Tip Line). It will be monitored 24/7 by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Not only is it accessible all the time, it is anonymous and can be accessed via the app, text messaging, phone call, or online: www.davis.k12.ut.us. Watch the website for additional details & launch dates.

bully4The Benefits of Working Together
Bullying doesn’t happen only at school. Community members can use their unique strengths and skills to prevent bullying wherever it occurs. For example, youth sports groups may train coaches to prevent bullying. Local businesses may make t-shirts with bullying prevention slogans for an event. After-care staff may read books about bullying to kids and discuss them. Hearing anti-bullying messages from the different adults in their lives can reinforce the message for kids that bullying is unacceptable.

Potential Partners
Involve anyone who wants to learn about bullying and reduce its impact in the community. Consider involving businesses, local associations, adults who work directly with kids, parents, and youth.

• Identify partners such as mental health specialists, law enforcement officers, neighborhood associations, service groups, faith-based organizations, and businesses.
• Learn what types of bullying community members see and discuss developing targeted solutions.
• Involve youth. Teens can take leadership roles in bullying prevention among younger kids.

Community Strategies
Study community strengths and needs:

• Ask: Who is most affected? Where? What kinds of bullying happen most? How do kids and adults react? What is already being done in our local area to help?
• Think about using opinion surveys, interviews, and focus groups to answer these questions. Learn how schools assess bullying
• Consider open forums like group discussions with community leaders, businesses, parent groups, and churches.

Develop a comprehensive community strategy:
• Review what you learned from your community study to develop a common understanding of the problem.
• Establish a shared vision about bullying in the community, its impact, and how to stop it.
• Identify audiences to target and tailor messages as appropriate.
• Describe what each partner will do to help prevent and respond to bullying.
• Advocate for bullying prevention policies in schools and throughout the community.
• Raise awareness about your message. Develop and distribute print materials. Encourage local radio, TV, newspapers, and websites to give public service announcements prime space. Introduce bullying prevention to groups that work with kids.
• Track your progress over time. Evaluate to ensure you are refining your approach based on solid data, not anecdotes.

Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is the repeated use of information technology to deliberately harass, threaten or intimidate others. As access to technology increases, cyberbullying is becoming a common problem. Technology can be a fun way to connect with people but this can also take a negative & dangerous turn. Education is the key to prevention, therefore teachers, parents & students all need to know what to look for & what to do if someone is a victim. Visit CommonSenseMedia.com for a cyberbullying toolkit or www.netsafeutah.org.

How to Help
If you suspect someone is the victim of cyberbullying:
• Be supportive – let them know you are there to help.
• Keep a record – don’t erase the evidence.
• Help them report it to authorities/trusted adults and block the bully on electronic devices.
• Check-in often.

Resources
National Bully Prevention Center
Prevention Dimensions
Bully & Cyber Bully Prevention
Safe2Help
Family Acceptance Project
Suicidepreventionlifeline.org

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This entry was posted in Bully, Communication Tips, Family Counseling, Internet and Technology, Mental Health, Parenting Tips, SLCO, Teen Counseling, Treatment, Youth Groups. Bookmark the permalink.

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