More than half a million Utah kids are about to begin a new school year. Some will be involved in sports, others in music, others in art or honors courses. And according to the Provo School District website, about 16 percent will also be involved in bullying.
Kids who are bullied — whether physically or psychologically and in person or online — endure physical and emotional abuse that can leave them injured, fearful and insecure. And there are more lasting effects. A recent study by Dr. Michael G. Turner, a professor at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, reveals that victims of bullying are more likely to go to prison and get involved with drug and substance abuse.
1. Talk, talk, talk
Secrecy protects inappropriate behavior; openness destroys it. Encourage your kids to talk about both the significant and the trivial things that are happening in school. Listen for details that may be troubling. Ask follow-up questions. This dialogue can be your child’s greatest shield against bullying.
2. Act confident
Even if your child isn’t naturally self-assured, help him/her learn to act like it. Bullies are less likely to torment kids who appear strong and confident or who don’t respond to intimidation. Help your kids learn to hold their heads up, stand up straight and make eye contact.
3. Learn to recognize bullying
It’s difficult to fight an enemy you don’t recognize. In general, boys are more likely to experience physical and verbal abuse while girls are more prone to social and psychological bullying. Help your child understand what bullying looks like so they can be prepared to handle the situation appropriately.
4. Stay with friends
It’s easier to pick on one person than it is to take on a whole group. Teach your children to stay with a group whenever possible, especially in places and at times when they know bullying is more likely to occur. There is safety in the combined strength of friends who look out for each other.
5. Be part of the solution
Make it clear to your children that they should never join in bullying another person, but that even staying silent in these situations can be harmful. Teach your kids who they should tell if they see someone being bullied, like a teacher or principal, and help them brainstorm other ways to be part of the solution.
6. Protect your passwords
Preventing cyberbullying requires specific precautions. Teach your children to never share their passwords, even with friends they trust. Keeping passwords private helps protect your child’s information and can prevent bullies from damaging your child’s online reputation.
7. Post positively
Many acts of cyberbullying occur when an unintended audience sees something a child posts. Help your child understand that photos and messages they send, even privately, can be traced online and sent to anyone. Keeping posts positive, kind and appropriate is the only way to be sure you won’t be embarrassed by something getting around.
8. Keep parents involved
Help your kids understand that you are there to keep them safe. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and any other networks they use. You don’t have to comment on everything they post, but being aware of your child’s online activity can help you detect dangerous situations before they escalate.