It seems like every day there is a story in the news about bullying with horrific consequences, including several recent suicides of students who had been victims of bullying. Every day, it is estimated that more than 160,000 students skip school because they fear being bullied. Whether you’re a teacher, a parent, or a concerned community member, you may be asking yourself what you can do to stop this problem.
The effects of taunting and bullying can last a lifetime—and they are the top reasons for suicide among teenagers. For bullied victims, the school becomes a frightening and intimidating place, not a safe haven in which to learn and grow. Bullying should not be seen as “normal,” though it has plagued children for generations. Do not write off bullying with a “kids will be kids” mantra. Though an easy cop out, it is your responsibility—as a parent, a teacher, or someone who comes into contact with children—to stop the cycle.
Schools can’t do it alone—and neither can parents. Both must work together to prevent bullying. This requires effective collaboration among everyone in the community. Make sure that all students know where to get help with bullying and any other issues that may be impeding their success in school. Encourage your local school to offer training to parents, teachers, and security guards on what to do about bullying and other violence that could be happening on the campus. Conduct an anonymous survey to find out the extent of bullying in your community—you might be surprised by the results. Adopt and enforce an anti-bullying policy and increase adult supervision, especially in hallways, playgrounds, and other areas that usually fall outside teachers’ control.
The problems might occur in the hallways, in the classroom, on the bus—or even online. Bullying is no longer restricted to fights on the playground. In fact, bullying does not have to be physical at all. With online bullying or “cyberbullying,” an increasing problem in kids and teens, parents have more reason than ever to monitor their child’s online presence.
Talk to your child frequently. With the lines of communication open, they are more likely to let you know if someone is picking on them. Often, however, students are reluctant to tell an adult about bullying, believing the problem to be their own fault. How, then, can such problems be detected? If the physical bullying is not seen, other signs can include growing isolation, dropping grades, and lowering self-esteem. If you learn that your child is being bullied, work with school administration to find a solution to avoid life-long negative effects stemming from bullying.
If it’s your own child being bullied, what can you do to stop the harassment? Besides discussing the matter with your child’s teacher and school administrators, consider volunteering your time in the lunch room and on the playground to monitor the students—your child’s school may simply lack the resources to have adequate supervision for these areas of the school. Enroll your child in self defense classes and other activities to boost their self-esteem, and consider giving them a child-friendly personal alarm if you are concerned about the possibility of physical violence and want to give your child a way to alert nearby adults to the problem.
The Resist Attack Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to helping women protect themselves from violence. Since being founded by James and Tara Shaw in 2011, the Resist Attack Foundation has been helping women in many ways. Their S.A.F.E. program aims to provide women with the educational and physical tools that can help keep them free from harm.
A Note from Our Editor
Online harassment is defined by the US Dept of Justice as repeated online communications after the offender has clearly been told to stop. – Jayne Hitchcock
A couple of years ago, Chelsea participated in an online discussion hosted by Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) on the topic of cyberbullying between children. We would like to share some of the information from our dialogue that may be helpful to any of our readers who find themselves in a position to help a bullied child.
Please, feel free to browse through our archive of articles on cyberbullying, or read “The Bystander Effect” written by a 14-year-old student contributor from Missouri.
Chelsea: Does it count as cyberbullying if the offender uses an online status post out of context in order to spread false rumors to the victim’s family and friends? What is the best way for the victimized child to respond?
Hale (Retired Special Investigator): Your situation depends on how your specific State statute is worded. Here in Illinois there are several laws that can pertain to cyber bullying. Our cyber stalking law has been written to include language referring to the use of technology to cause “emotional distress.” We also have a law called “Harassment Through Electronic Communications” where you will find wording prohibiting the transmitting of an electronic communication for the purpose of harassing another person who is under 13 years of age.
So basically, the answer to your question will be found within your specific laws and how they are worded. A lot of States are attempting to “catch-up” with technology by re-writing or introducing new laws that will address current issues. The ultimate authority on what specific actions will be prosecutable will be your local prosecuting attorney. As always, the best way for the victimized child to respond to any type of online harassment is to tell a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult.
Jayne Hitchcock (WHOA President): I would consider that bullying or harassment. The best way to respond is to report that person to the web site or Internet Service Provider and block them, if possible. They should also tell a trusted adult what is going on and to NOT respond directly to the bully.
As Hale wrote, it really depends on your state’s laws (or the state where the person posting lives) and how it is worded. Online harassment is defined by the US Dept of Justice as repeated online communications after the offender has clearly been told to stop. We always advise victims to respond *once* to the person harassing/bullying them with a simple, “Please stop communicating with me” or “Please stop posting things about me.” Then we advise them to keep an eye on things and report (and block) anything that may be posted, but to NOT respond to the person anymore. If it continues, we can offer free help at our web site—haltabusektd.org for kids/teens and parents—and haltabuse.org for those over 18.