Bullying in schools has become a real issue, and not one that we should take lightly. According to DoSomething.org, over 3.2 million students are bullied every year, and 71% of students report that bullying is a problem in their school. Those are some alarming numbers. Even more alarming is the fact that 160,000 teens skip school every day due to bullying, and 1 in 10 students drop out of school due to bullying. Bullying has also been cited as playing a role in suicide and violence in schools.
Unfortunately, many children don’t speak up when they are being bullied. Statistics show that students only report bullying to adults about 20% to 30% of the time, and 67% of students feel that schools have a poor response to bullying. It doesn’t help that studies show that 25% of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4% of the time. As adults, parents and school administrators are responsible for setting a good example. We need to let our kids know that bullying of any kind is never okay, and children need to know that we will be there to support them if they ever experience bullying. Unfortunately, too many adults have taken the stance that bullying is “just a part of life” and kids should just “suck it up.” This is a dangerous way of thinking, as it can lead children to believe that they can’t come to us if something is a real problem, and that they must deal with the situation on their own. We don’t want our kids to feel that way.
On the other hand, many adults feel helpless. After all, parents can’t be with their kids 24/7, especially while they are in school, and school administrators can’t possibly watch every single interaction among all of the children either.
What can you do?
The most important thing adults can do is to let children know that you are there to listen. Start an open dialogue with your kids. Just taking the time to ask your children about their day can go a long way. It’s also important to talk about bullying directly. Make sure your kids know what bullying is, and teach them to treat everyone with respect. Encourage your kids to do what they love, and reinforce positive behavior. Be an example for your children; children often learn their behavior from you, so it’s important that you be aware of how you treat others, as well.
For schools, early intervention is important. By intervening early on in elementary and middle school, schools can promote positive activity. Schools should have a zero tolerance policy with bullying. Kids who are victims of bullying are often afraid to speak up, and that can hinder their own educational experience, stunting personal and academic growth. Those who are bullied often suffer from depression and anxiety, and their grades often slip. Schools should also focus on school-wide prevention programs that promote a positive community atmosphere. Both parents and teachers should look for warning signs that a child is bullying or is being bullied.
There are several great resources out there to help get the conversation started. StopBullying.gov offers informative material on bullying and tips on how to prevent bullying, including tips for kids, adults, and school officials, and warning signs that parents and teachers can look for. The National Bullying Prevention Center also offers educational materials and videos, and often sponsors anti-bullying events that kids can get involved in.
While it may be difficult to completely remove bullying from our society, by simply keeping the conversation going and encouraging our children to open up, we can begin to set change in motion.