Although bullying has occurred in some form or another since the human race began, it has become more of a problem in schools throughout the last decade or so. With the rise in popularity of social media among teens and the accessibility of cell phones and internet options, there are now new avenues in which kids can pick on their peers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services anti-bullying website defines bullying as “intentionally aggressive, usually repeated verbal, social or physical behavior aimed at a specific person or group of people.” The increase in bullying has sparked national campaigns in order to curb this growing negative trend in schools and the workplace.
According to a recent UCLA psychology study, those who bully are considered the “coolest” among participants. With 83 percent of teens and 79 percent of boys reporting being bullied, and approximately 30 percent of teens admitting to bullying themselves, it is clear that harassment at school is a growing problem affecting school work, social relationships and self-esteem. Online bullying, officially coined cyberbullying, is one of the reasons bullying has increased, as it can be done anonymously, making it difficult to trace. In addition, online images and messages reach a wide audience very quickly causing a maximum amount of damage in a short amount of time. Because some suicides have been directly linked to cyberbullying and the fact that 75 percent of school shootings have been linked to bullying and harassment toward the perpetrator, it is clear that parents need to be on the forefront of the movement to help stem the tide.
What Can Parents Do?
There are a number of ways that parents can help protect their kids as well as helping those who are doing the bullying.
· Keep the lines of communication open between you and your teen. If his behavior changes, his grades drop or he seems more withdrawn, it may be time to have a discussion about what is happening at school.
· Discuss with your teen what he can do to avoid incidents at school. This can include assertive directions to stop, keeping a safe distance or sticking close to friends in a buddy system. Chronic bullying should always be reported to an adult at the school as well.
· Know what your teen is up to online as well as what apps they frequent on their phone or tablet. Social media sites can be a fun way to share photos and keep up with family and friends, but they are also a hotspot for bullying. Let your teen know that you will be checking up on communication regularly and that access to these options is a privilege, not a right.
· Take any report of your child being a bully seriously. Make sure your teen knows that you will not tolerate bullying in any form and be clear and consistent on the consequences for breaking the rules.
· Teach your child empathy and practice what you preach. Your home environment should be a reflection of the values you want him to embrace. Respect and effective conflict management should be demonstrated on a regular basis.
As your teen grows, you may not be able to protect him from everything, as much as you want to. However, you can be a proactive force in making sure that he has a safe and supportive place to learn how to handle conflict with his peers as well as proper coping mechanisms.
Liahona Academy is a residential treatment program specializing in helping troubled boys get their lives back on track. Contact us at 1-800 for a free consultation.