October has a lot of things going on (Halloween! Breast Cancer Awareness! People already selling Christmas stuff!) but it also happens to be National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Bullying is something that affects millions of kids across the U.S., and I’d bet that everyone reading this has some kind of bullying-related story. For me it was harassment from boys on my baseball team and comments from girls who decided I wasn’t cool enough. For my brother, it was a girl on the bus who tormented him for months before the school finally stepped in. But we’ve been relatively lucky- we were able to navigate through these situations and keep moving forward. For some kids, the bullying becomes so pervasive and nasty that it affects their physical and psychological health. And with increased technology use among kids and teens, cyberbullying is a major problem. So what can you do? First off, go to www.stopbullying.gov for a whole host of resources. Here’s what they recommend if you see bullying happening in person:
- Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.
- Separate the kids involved.
- Make sure everyone is safe.
- Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
- Stay calm. Reassure the kids involved, including bystanders.
- Model respectful behavior when you intervene.
Avoid these common mistakes:
- Don’t ignore it. Don’t think kids can work it out without adult help.
- Don’t immediately try to sort out the facts.
- Don’t force other kids to say publicly what they saw.
- Don’t question the children involved in front of other kids.
- Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately.
- Don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.
Get police help or medical attention immediately if:
- A weapon is involved.
- There are threats of serious physical injury.
- There are threats of hate-motivated violence, such as racism or homophobia.
- There is serious bodily harm.
- There is sexual abuse.
- Anyone is accused of an illegal act, such as robbery or extortion—using force to get money, property, or services.
In addition, here are some common warning signs that a child may be the target of cyberbullying:
- Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting.
- A child exhibits emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device.
- A child hides their screen or device when others are near, and avoids discussion about what they are doing on their device.
- Social media accounts are shut down or new ones appear.
- A child starts to avoid social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past.
- A child becomes withdrawn or depressed, or loses interest in people and activities.
Raising healthy and well-adjusted kids is a community effort and worth everyone’s time, whether it’s your kid being bullied or not. Check out more tips for parents, teachers, and community members here, as well as prevention programs here.