Six out of 10 teenagers say they witness bullying in school once a day, and 160,000 students miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students, according to bullying statistics.
Bullying is a big problem in America’s schools, and for National Bullying Prevention Month, education groups are trying to inform kids and adults about what they can do to stop bullies.
Popular wisdom often portrayed in movies and TV shows would have you believe that kids should fight back against bullies, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ bullying website says that’s not a good idea.
Here’s their advice:
Look at the kid bullying you and tell him or her to stop in a calm, clear voice. You can also try to laugh it off. This works best if joking is easy for you. It could catch the kid bullying you off guard. If speaking up seems too hard or not safe, walk away and stay away. Don’t fight back. Find an adult to stop the bullying on the spot.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Markham says on her parenting website that parents should teach children to stand up to bullies by saying they won’t let anyone abuse or intimidate them and then walking away.
Point out to your child that the bully wants to provoke a response that makes him feel powerful, so showing emotion and fighting back are exactly what the bully feeds off. Your child needs to avoid getting “hooked” no matter how mad the bully makes him.
Author and public speaker Carrie Goldman, who wrote the book “Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear,” agrees with that view. She points out that a lot of bullying takes place online, where it’s difficult to fight back and take down a bully. And often when students are bullied at school, it’s a bigger kid or group of kids picking on someone smaller.
Telling kids to fight back also puts the pressure on the child to stop the bullying themselves at a time when they’re already feeling weak and powerless.
Still, there remains a difference of opinion in how best to handle bullies. NBC’s Today show reports that some states have camps that offer classes to teach kids martial arts skills they can use against bullies.
Cyberbullying is a different problem altogether. Because the bullying takes place online, it’s easy for the perpetrators to hide behind a fake screen name and maintain anonymity.
StopBullying.gov recommends that kids report any incidents of cyberbullying to adults and adjust their privacy settings to control who sees what.
Adults can also take a part in preventing bullying — the National Education Association has a list of 10 tips about how to intervene when you witness bullying. Adult involvement can help considering that nearly 70% of students think schools respond poorly to bullying and 64% of children who were bullied did not report it.
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