What is bullying?
Bullying is repeated and intentional behavior by an individual or group of individuals that causes harm to another. Bullying can take many forms:
- Physical (shoving, hitting, tripping)
- Emotional (name calling, jeering, humiliating)
- Social (isolation, exclusion from activities)
- Cyberbullying (use of electronic technology such as cell phones or internet to threaten, intimidate or spread gossip about the victim)
Why don't the schools just deal with the bullying?
Bullying does not only happen at school. It occurs among siblings at home, in parks, daycare settings and recreational facilities. Bullying also occurs through Internet and cell phone use.
One group cannot prevent or reduce bullying behavior alone. The responsibility for bullying prevention rests with all adults who are concerned for children.
- The most successful bullying interventions include strong parent involvement.
- Bullying behavior is reduced when schools have strong prevention programs.
- Bullying behavior is reduced when children targeted by bullying behavior learn different ways to respond and to report the bullying each time it happens.
- Bullying behavior is reduced when other kids, those who are bystanders, intervene and stand up and become upstanders to the bullying behavior.
- Children who bully need to be held accountable and often need help to change this pattern of behavior.
I have talked with the school about my child being bullied and it keeps happening. What is being done?
Most schools have written policies and procedures to follow regarding bullying. These are often outlined in the student handbook and on the school's website. Schools have to investigate each bullying incident and make a determination. This can take time. Privacy laws prevent schools from providing details of the outcome of investigations. In addition, a student who has been bullying may not stop just because of a consequence. This is why it is important to report the bullying each time it occurs. This helps the school establish the problem behavior as more chronic an increase the level of consequence and accountability for the child who is bullying. When reporting bullying, ask the teacher or administrator when the investigation will be concluded and how you will be informed.
For schools: Consider having follow-up conversations with the parents of the child who was bullied to determine if the bullying has ended or if it is continuing and to maintain a clear line of communication.
What should my school be doing to prevent bullying?
Public school districts are required by law to have anti-bullying policies in place. Each school district approaches this problem differently. Programs and policies are often determined by school district administrative leadership and resources available. Each school district's anti-bullying policy should be available to both parents and students. Check your student's school district handbook for more information or ask your school administrator.
Are there national/state laws about bullying?
Yes. There are 49 states that have laws regarding bullying in place. Each state differs. To find out the law in your state, go to bullypolice.org.
Who should I talk to if my child is the one doing the bullying?
You may want to start with your child. If you are aware of the bullying behavior, either at home or at school, consider exploring what is reinforcing the behavior. Is it social status? Is it about maintaining power? Does your child appear remorseful or show empathy for the victims of their behavior?
Children who persist in bullying behavior are at greater risk for developing legal, academic, social and relationship problems later in life. If your child is engaging in bullying behavior and seems unable or disinterested in stopping this behavior even though they experience consequences, they may need professional help. Start with your school professionals or your pediatrician or family doctor to find out how to get help for your child.
How can I teach my kids to stand up for themselves and their friends against bullies?
Standing up for yourself is different than fighting. Having frequent conversations with your child about how to deal with conflicts or problems with other children is part of teaching children about relationships.
It is never a good idea to bully another child, even if they have bullied your child. Teaching your child to walk away, ignore, not over-react, tell an adult, and be assertive with bullies are all good strategies to use at different times. These strategies may take practice for children to feel comfortable in trying them out. Some of the activities available at this website can help.
Does my pediatrician/health care provider screen for bullying?
The American Academy of Pediatricians developed recommendations for screening school-age children in 2009 by asking children and their parents about their school and friendship experiences. There are not specific screening tools available. Talk with your pediatrician or family practice provider if you have concerns about your child.
The school investigation seems to be at a standstill. Do I intervene?
Investigations of bullying can take time. Teachers and student witnesses need to be interviewed. Victims, bystanders and children engaged in bullying behavior often have different stories. Parents of children involved are often contacted to get additional information. If you are a concerned parent, ask when you can expect to be informed about how the bullying incident will be resolved. Be persistent. Be respectful.
How do I communicate with my school about bullying?
If you are concerned about your child being part of a bullying experience at school contact the school teacher or principal and ask to meet with them. Inform them that you are concerned about a bullying incident that has occurred. Make sure you have as much detail as your child has reported to you:
- When the bullying occurred
- Location of the bullying
- Names and description of the children involved
- What happened
Please remember this information is your child's perspective of what happened. There may be more information that your child did not see or does not recall. It is the school's responsibility to investigate further.
How young can bullying behavior begin?
Aggressive behavior in children can start in toddler years. When children are aggressive, and their behavior helps them to get what they want, the aggression is reinforced. This can begin a pattern of bullying. Teaching children patience, kindness, empathy, rules for turn-taking, problem-solving and dealing with emotions can help reduce risk for bullying behaviors. These activities may help.
When is it appropriate to talk to the parents of the bully?
If bullying has occurred in the school environment, let the school handle the situation. However, bullying can also occur in team sports, church groups, or at the park. It is important to stay calm and not make threatening comments or accusations to others…ever. Talk first with adults responsible for the activity to determine how bullying is handled. Consider how you would want to be approached if your child was being accused of bullying.