October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and parents can use this opportunity to discuss the unfortunate issues of bullying and harassment with their children. Here are some ways to bring awareness during National Bullying Prevention Month:
1. Discuss how to identify bullying. When we talk about bullying, we often think of physical or in-person forms of bullying. This type of bullying certainly still takes place in schools, but it’s important for kids to remember that bullying can also take on other forms. In today’s day and age, bullying can occur online via social media platforms or digital forms of communication – aka cyberbullying. With many schools closed and students spending more time online (both for academic and social reasons), it’s especially important for kids to be aware of cyberbullying and its effects. Whether bullying takes place online or in-person, kids should understand that the definition of bullying doesn’t change: any behavior consisting of harassment, hateful speech, inappropriate gestures, unwanted comments, physical or emotional threats, etc. Regardless of how bullying presents itself, it is never acceptable.
2. Talk about how to respond to bullying. If your child witnesses a friend or classmate being harassed, they should know what to do. Parents should first remind their child not to engage the bully, as this can worsen the situation and unnecessarily involve them into a conflict. Kids should know that all bullying should be reported, regardless of where it takes place. If your child sees bullying at school, they should tell an adult. If your child isn’t comfortable talking directly to a teacher or school official, let them know they can come to you first. If your child witnesses cyberbullying, parents can help them to report the user. Cyberbullying and online harassment is not tolerated on any major social network, and these platforms will take action if they receive a report. Cyberbullying can be a crime, and in some cases may have legal implications. Let your kids know that cyberbullying is a serious issue, and there is a right way to respond to it. Most importantly, if your child ever sees something that is potentially dangerous or threatening in nature, call the police. Severe examples of cyberbullying cannot be ignored, and acts of violence or threats towards another should be reported to local law enforcement immediately.
3. Talk about the effects of bullying. For younger children, it can help to explain how bullying can hurt someone’s feelings and make them feel bad inside. Teaching your kids to be considerate of their friends and classmates is a wonderful way to show the importance of having empathy towards others. And for older students, discuss how bullying can quite literally destroy lives and tear families apart. Bullying can cause major depression and anxiety, which in turn negatively impacts a child’s academic performance, social development, and overall quality of life. In some cases, kids faced with severe bullying have gone to extreme lengths for an escape – or worse, retribution – and more violence only breeds further hatred. When kids (especially teens) understand the detrimental effects bullying can have, they will be more understanding and well-equipped on how to respond when they see it taking place. At the end of the day, all kids should understand one thing: no matter the circumstance, bullying is never okay!