Bullying! It’s been a topic of conversation for years. You, your parents, or someone you know has probably referred to bullying as a part of growing up, a way to build character, its “just boys being boys.” But over the years, with changes in technology, media, and society in general, the way in which children and teens are bullied has changed as well.
Bullying, by definition, is the “unwanted aggressive behavior that involves real or perceived power imbalance” (stopbullying.gov) and has become an increased problem across the country. School districts, non-profit organizations, and other groups have been putting their best foot forward trying to establish zero-tolerance for bullying in schools across the nation. That is why October is recognized as National Bullying Prevention Month, to raise awareness and put an end to bullying among children and teens across the nation
At Agora, we provide a safe learning environment for our students and we take pride in our policy of zero tolerance towards bullying of any kind. And while cyber schools have fostered an environment where students can obtain an education without fear of physical, verbal, or psychological bullying, it does not mean our students are exempt from bullying outside of school. As part of our own National Bullying Prevention Month initiative we want to provide students, parents, and families with tips on who to prevent bullying, what to do if you are being bullied, and how to help your child if they are being bullied:
For Students: It starts with you! Even if you aren’t being bullied, or even know someone who is being bullied, you can take part in keeping it from happening down the road. Below are a few tips for how to prevent bullying in your social groups.
- Treat people the way you want to be treated: It’s the golden rule, and it’s never been truer than when trying to prevent bullying.
- Get Involved: Be proactive about bullying –don’t wait to do something about it after it’s already happened. Talk to your school about organizing anti-bullying activities, post about it on social media, or even make an agreement with your friends to always try to speak to each other with respect and kindness. Even a small step is one step in the right direction.
- Apologize: If you feel you’ve mistreated someone make it a point to apologize for your actions. Listen to the person you’ve hurt and understand how it made them feel. Take their advice and put it towards making sure it doesn’t happen in the future.
- Stand Up for Others: If you witness someone being bullied, stand up for them. If you don’t feel safe, report it to your teacher, coach or parent. Stopping a bully and showing them their behavior is unacceptable can prevent more incidents from occurring down the road.
- Show your support: If you know someone who is being bullied show them you care. Help them get involved in clubs, invite them to hang out with you and your friends, or even volunteer to walk them home. Isolation is one of a bully’s biggest tactics. Helping a person feel less alone in their situation can lessen the effects the bully has on that person’s life.
Being bullied, or knowing someone who is being bullied is not fun. In fact, studies have shown the damaging effects being bullied can have on a person’s health and well-being. However, you can put forth an effort to help yourself or others who are being bullied. Below are a few tips that can help!
- Walk Away: If you find yourself being confronted by a bully in-person, walk away. If they physically try to stop you from walking away, call for help. In extreme cases of physical threat call or even shout for help. If a bully isolates you and the threat of physical violence is present, protect yourself.
- Report it: Don’t let bullies get away with their actions. Report incidents of bullying to teachers, principals, group leaders, or even authorities. By allowing a bully to get away with their actions they continue to believe their behavior is acceptable.
- Talk about it: Keeping your feelings bottled up isn’t a healthy way to deal with any emotion. If you are being bullied talk about it with someone you trust. A trusted adult cannot only help you deal with your emotions, but they can also provide wisdom on how to deal with the situation.
- Look on the bright side: Bullies try to make their victims feel worthless, usually because that is how they feel about themselves. Don’t let a bully take away your perspective on the great things you have in your life. While it may seem difficult at first, focus on the positives in your life; a family who loves you, excelling in sports, or being a talented artist or musician. Take a step back and examine what you love about your life and focus on it.
- Get involved: Bullies try to isolate their victims. One way to take away a bully’s power is by not feeling isolated. Whether it’s a school club or sports team, find a place where you feel accepted by others and share the same interests. You will be amazed at how less you will be affected by a bully once you know you aren’t alone.
- Work It Out: Literally! Exercise is a great way to help reduce stress, manage your emotions, and stay healthy. It’s also a great confidence booster.
For Parents: As parents, it’s easy to minimize the effects of bullying. Bullying used to be viewed as a rite of passage, a way for young people to build character or even become part of a group. In today’s society however, that is no longer the case. What was once considered “character building,” we now know to be proven detrimental on a child’s mental state and can even create problems that last into adulthood. Like students, it’s also a parent’s job to help prevent and end bullying. Below are a few resources for parents, families, and guardians to help prevent and end bullying:
If you have a child who is being bullied:
- Look for warning signs: Some of the signs your child is being bullied could be decreased appetite and changes in physical appearance, nightmares, changes in their mood and behavior, withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed.
- Talk to your child: Talk to your child about bullying, even if you don’t see any warning signs. It’s important for parents to be proactive to prevent it from happening in the future. If your child is being bullied show your support. Help your child recognize they are not alone in their situation and you are going to help.
- Report it: Just like a child, it’s important for parents to report bullying, too. Bullies believe their behavior is appropriate. By reporting an incident to the proper authority (school, group leader, or police) you are not only putting a stop to their current behavior, but you may also get the necessary help for the bully to change his behavior.
- Get Involved: Isolation is a key tactic for bullies so help you child get involved in social groups or clubs where they feel connected to their peers.
- Don’t let them be a target: Individuals often bully others based on social status, appearance, or other superficial factors. Bullies can also become jealous and target specific types of people. If your child is targeted for a specific item like an electronic device or money, remove the item.
If you have a child who is bullying others:
- Look for warning signs: Some warning signs your child is a bully are consistently acting out towards others, violent behavior towards you, siblings, or other members of the family; blaming others for trouble at school, excess amounts of detentions.
- Talk to your child: Often times there are underlying reasons why a child is choosing to bully someone else. Talk to your child about why they are acting out. Listen to the way they are feeling and be supportive of any issues they might have.
- Help your child manage: If your child opens up about issues behind their bullying such as low self-esteem, depression, or feelings of inadequacy, take the necessary steps in getting your child help and/or treatment. If you child bullies because of feeling stress or overwhelmed, looks for ways to help your child deal with these issues in a healthy way like exercise, sports, or another creative outlet.
We all play a crucial part in stopping and preventing bullying and by working together we can achieve zero-tolerance in schools and clubs across the nation!
If you want to read more about National Bullying Prevention Month, plenty of organizations participate and promote prevention activities online, just visit: stompoutbullying.org, stopbullying.gov, and Pacer.org
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