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What Can You Do To Prevent Bullying?
Posted by Emily Pazel

In this day and age, there’s no escaping the constant ridicule of bullying. For school-aged children, the bullying doesn’t just stop once they come home from school – it’s virtual and all around them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It doesn’t stop. And, unfortunately, it’s harder to prevent and control. So, is there anything you can do? That answer to that question is yes! While bullying might look a little differently than it did when you were a kid, it’s still the same concept. 

Since the month of October is National Bullying Prevention Month, it could be a great opportunity for you, as a parent or a person that works closely with children, to take a step back to learn the signs and make steps can be taken towards helping someone that may be experiencing bullying. 

Although bullying may seem like an ordinary thing that everyone experiences at some point during their life, it should be prevented or acknowledged as it could lead to serious repercussions. When someone is persistently bullied – no matter the age – it could lead to unpleasant feelings of isolation, rejection, depression and anxiety, which can contribute to suicidal behavior.

It’s important to keep an eye out for warning signs and learn what you can do to help the situation.


Facing the Facts

What is bullying, really? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines bullying as any unwanted aggressive behaviors, involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Having this definition for reference is a good way to determine whether you are facing bullying or other types of aggressive behavior, such as one-time physical fights, online arguments or incidents between adults. Bullying can even be lumped into more criminalized behaviors, such as harassment, hazing or assault. 

A big part of bullying prevention is researching and understanding more about how bullying manifests in schools, the prevalence of cyberbullying in online spaces, how bullying affects people and how the media coverage affects bullying.  In fact, statistics have shown that about 20% of students nationwide between the ages of 12 to 18 have experienced bullying at some point during their life. 

Through research and data collected to help understand what bullying is and how to prevent it, researchers have found:

  • Bullying affects all youth, including those who are bullied, those who bully others and those who witness bullying. More importantly, those effects of bullying may continue into adulthood.
  • There is not a single profile of a young person involved in bullying. Youth who bully can be either well connected socially or marginalized, and may be bullied by others as well. Similarly, those who are bullied sometimes bully others.
  • Solutions to bullying are not simple. Bullying prevention approaches that show the most promise confront the problem from many angles. They involve the entire school community – students, families, administrators, teachers and staff – in creating a culture of respect. Zero tolerance and expulsion are not effective approaches.
  • Bystanders and those who see bullying, can make a huge difference when they intervene on behalf of someone being bullied.
  • Studies also have shown that adults can help prevent bullying by talking to children about bullying, encouraging them to do what they love, modeling kindness and respect and seeking help.

Although there has been a major shift to cyber bullying, bullying in school is still a huge factor when it comes to unwanted, peer-to-peer aggressive behaviors. In fact, according to a survey of students in grades 9-12, 43.4% (the majority) of bullying is typically experienced in the hallway or stairwell, where a teacher or administrator is not present. The next most prevalent place for bullying is the classroom (42.1%), followed by the cafeteria (26.8%), outside on the school grounds (21.9%), online or text (15.3%), and bathroom or locker room (12.1%). 

And while there are different places around the school or at home that someone can be bullied, there are also different kinds of bullying. Typically, the various types of bullying that someone will face include: being the subject of rumors or lies (13.4%), being made fun of, called names or insulted (13%), Pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on (5.3%), leaving out/exclusion (5.2%), threatened with harm (3.9%), others tried to make them do things they did not want to do (1.9%) or property was destroyed on purpose (1.4%).

In the same survey taken with students in grades 9-12, around 46% of them that were bullied said they notified an adult at school about the bullying. That’s less than half. So, why don’t children or young teens try to get help or reach out to an adult? Is it because they feel like they won’t get the help they need even after reaching out? Let’s go over some ways that you can help as a parent, as an educator in the classroom and as a part of a community. 


What You Can Do 

Unfortunately, the amount of bullying a child or teenager faces could have severe consequences that stay with them until adulthood. Or worse, bullying could lead to someone feeling down and depressed, which could contribute to suicidal behavior. 

When you have a child in school, you can play a key role in preventing and responding to bullying. The first thing you can do is look for the warning signs that your child is involved in bullying. They could be being bullied, bullying others or witnessing bullying.

If you believe that your child is being bullied, here are a few things you can look for:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decrease self esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves or talking about suicide

Maybe your child is bullying others? Here are the signs to look for:

  • Getting into physical or verbal fights
  • Have friends who bully others
  • Are increasingly aggressive
  • Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
  • Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
  • Blame others for their problems
  • Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
  • Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity

Once you’ve noticed what could be a warning sign, the next step is to do something about it. You should utilize tips and tools to talk to your child about bullying. Creating an open line of communication can help you and your child understand what happened and discuss the situation more clearly. After you’ve learned that extra steps need to be taken, you should try to contact the school or community officials that can work together to support your child. If you’re an educator, you can help create a supportive and safe school climate where all students are accepted and learn how to respond if you suspect bullying. Try to engage parents and youth in building a positive school climate, as well as talk about bullying.

As a community, you can work together to ensure that all children are safe from bullying by finding resources and working together as a team. Whether you work in law enforcement, mental health services, medical services, etc., you can take action against bullying. You can utilize nationwide toolkits to host anti-bullying events and develop comprehensive strategies for bullying prevention. When you see someone getting bullied or feel like they might be, try to get in front of the situation before it gets worse. Think back to when you were a kid and how it felt to be bullied. Nobody wants that. So take action and help those in your community, as well as in your own home.