On Wednesday, February 9, our country marks National Stop Bullying Day. While this isn’t a day most of us commemorate each year, National Stop Bullying Day offers an opportunity for us to consider the children in our lives and begin a community-wide conversation about bullying. This is a conversation that too few adults are having today, but it is an important one.
The concept of bullying certainly isn’t new, but it is a problem that has become increasingly dangerous. As new technologies emerge, the way bullies target their victims continues to evolve. A taunt once hurled on a schoolyard and forgotten in days has become pervasive verbal abuse that is cached online forever. Online social networking sites, blogs and smart phones enable bullies to extend their impact on victims, allowing for around-the-clock harassment. When bullies target victims online or through text messages, it is often difficult for victims to escape and even harder for parents and school officials to act on the violence or slander that occurs.
Research shows that 42 percent of children have been bullied online, and of this group of victims, one in four has experienced this kind of bullying more than once. It is important for children, parents, teachers and community leaders to discuss what can be done to stop this growing epidemic. Here are a few guidelines and suggestions to help parents protect their children.
Report bullying behaviors to appropriate officials.
Resist confronting the bully or the bully’s parents. Instead, report any unlawful or harassing behaviors to law enforcement. If incidents happen at school, report them to school officials. If your child receives cruel texts, don’t respond. Instead, make copies of them. This evidence may be useful to report to school officials or law enforcement.
Educate kids about bullying at an early age.
Teach them what bullying means, what to expect as they get older, and ask them to promise to talk to you if someone ever makes them feel bad about themselves. Additionally, talk to your kids about social pressures that could prompt them to bully others, and teach them why bullying is wrong. Look for signs of anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts. Caring conversations with your child can impact their emotional health.
Approximately 864,000 teens stay home from school one day each month because they fear for their safety. The self-esteem-building nonprofit Hey UGLY (Unique Gifted Lovable You) has designated the second Wednesday of February (and the week it falls in) as a day and week for schools across America to conduct Stop Bullying classroom activities and school assembly presentations on how to eradicate bullying from schools and neighborhoods
What to Do When Someone is Being Bullied
Take a stand and do not join in. Make it clear that you do not support what is going on.
Do not watch someone being bullied. If you feel safe, tell the person to stop. If you do not feel safe saying something, walk away and get others to do the same. If you walk away and do not join in, you have taken their audience and power away.
Support the person being bullied. Tell them that you are there to help. Offer to either go with them to report the bullying or report it for them.
Talk to an adult you trust. Talking to someone could help you figure out the best ways to deal with the problem. Reach out to a parent, teacher or another adult that you trust to discuss the problem, especially if you feel like the person may be at risk of serious harm to themselves or others.
Work to Prevent Bullying
Bullying is less likely to occur when there are strong messages against it. Work with your school, community, or other groups to create and support these messages:
Get involved with your school and community to find ways to prevent bullying.
Create an assembly, performance, or event to spread the message.
Be a leader and teach younger kids that bullying is not okay and that they can stop bullying before it begins.