October marks the fifth anniversary National Bullying Prevention Month. This is a great time to educate yourself about bullying.
Try to maintain open lines of communication with your child and make sure your child understands how you feel about bullying. Is your child able to come to you and talk if someone is bullying them? Are you and your child aware of the school resources and staff that can help with a problem of bullying at school?
Some questions that you could ask your child are:
1. “Do you have any special friends at school this year? Who are they? Who do you hang out with?”
2. “Who do you sit with at lunch and on the bus?”
3. “Are there any kids at school who you really don’t like? Why don’t you like them? Do they ever pick on you or leave you out of things?”
Some key facts you should understand about bullying:
- Bullying is a form of violence. It involves a real or perceived imbalance of power, with the more powerful child or group attacking those who are less powerful. Bullying may be physical (hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing), verbal (taunting, malicious teasing, name calling, threatening), or emotional (spreading rumors, manipulating social relationships, extorting, or intimidating).
- Bullying can occur face-to-face or in the online world. It can involve children of any age, including younger elementary grade-schoolers and even kindergarteners. Bullying behavior is frequently repeated unless there is intervention.
There are many long-term consequences of bullying.
Consequences for the Target
Students who are the target of a bully experience fear, anger, frustration and anxiety which may lead to ongoing illness, mood swings, withdrawal from friends and family, an inability to concentrate and loss of interest in school. If left unattended, the targeted student may develop attendance and/or discipline problems, fail at school altogether or, in the worst cases, they are suicidal or retaliatory and violent.
Consequences for the Bully
Some acts of bullying result in suspension or expulsion of students and translate into child abuse and domestic violence in adulthood. Research shows that 60 percent of males who bully in grades six through nine are convicted of at least one crime as adults, compared with 23 percent of males who did not bully.
Consequences for the Bystander
Students who passively participate in bullying by watching may come to believe that the behavior is acceptable and that the adults at school either do not care enough or are powerless to stop it. Some students may join in with the bully; others who share common traits with the target may fear they will become the next target. Research indicates that witnesses to bullying develop a loss of their sense of security which can reduce learning.