The first federal uniform definition of bullying wasn’t released until 2014 by the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Education. The first definition included some very important key points that are still included in the current definition today.
Bullying. Unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power of imbalance. Behavior is often repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Those who are bullied and who bully others may often times have serious, lasting problems.
Now, you will notice that in the definition that I wrote above I left out some key words. I left out the word “kids” and “children”. Though I know that bullying and cyberbullying are most common among school aged children, I am also aware that bullying doesn’t just stop once you finish school. Therefore I believe that the definition shouldn’t just be geared toward children. For the purpose of this blog post I will however be focusing on bullying and cyberbully in schools.
In order to define behavior as “bullying”, it must be aggressive and include the following:
- An imbalance of power: the kids who are doing the bullying will often use their ‘power’ (this can be physical strength, information about a person that could potentially embarrass them, or even their sense popularity) to control or even harm others.
- Repetition: bullying behaviors will more than likely happen more than once and if they haven’t they will have the potential to happen more than once. This repetition is often what makes the situations more difficult for the person(s) being bullied to deal with the issue. Knowing that it is going to continue or could potentially continue is very difficult to deal with.
Bullying actions can include but are not limited to:
- spreading rumors
- attacking someone (physically or verbally)
- excluding someone from a group on purpose
- name calling
- inappropriate comments
- excluding someone from a group
- taking, breaking or messing up someone else’s property
- making mean or rude hand gestures or comments
Most of the time people assume that bulling only occurs at school. While it is often most common for bullying to occur during school hours it can also occur after school or even at home. With the heavy presence of the internet in the lives of our children today it is a lot more common for kids to be bullied at home and often times they might not even know who is really doing the bullying.
Whenever I look at the stats for bullying or cyberbullying I am always shocked. I know that kids are bullied. I know that kids can be just down right mean. But when you see it in numbers….it brings a new perspective to it. I mean just look at the difference between the LBGT students and the non-LBGT students. We went from 20% and 9% to 55% that’s a huge jump!
I feel for the kids that have to deal with this day in and day out. I really do. I hope that this article if nothing else educated those that read it enough to be able to help at least one child that is being bullied. I hope that one day we can stop bullying all together. Now I know that’s a long shot. There are always going to be kids that are going to pick on another kid for one reason or another. But one can hope right?
Keep reading for a few ways that we can help to prevent or maybe even stop bullying.
(All of the above mentioned information and facts were found at http://www.stopbullying.gov if you would like more information about bullying please check out that website)
Before we go any further let’s think about a few things for a second. Think back to when you were growing up, do you remember ever being bullied? Were you ever a bully? Personally I was lucky enough to not have ever experienced bullying. I grew up going to very small private Catholic schools and we had very small classes so I was always very close with my classmates. We all got a long and were never really mean to each other. However I look at kids today as they grow up and I hear stories all the time about how their classmates are being bullied. I have occasionally seen it first hand at work and it breaks my heart.
As an educator there are certain things that I know I can do in my classroom to ensure that bullying will not happen. But just because it’s not happening in my classroom doesn’t mean it’s not happening somewhere else. In my classroom however, I know that I can make sure that my students know that bullying is not tolerated. That there will be major consequences for anyone who is bullying another student in my classroom. I know other teachers and our school as a whole have a no tolerance policy. But that still sometimes doesn’t stop students from bullying, and it definitely doesn’t stop them from cyberbullying.
Here is a small list of things that you can do in order to help prevent or put a stop to bullying in your classroom (or anywhere really):
1. Start the year off right: If you start the year off by letting your students know that bullying or mistreating their classmates will not be accepted it is a lot easier than trying to teach them that half way through the year. It is also important to establish a sense of community or family within your classroom. By encouraging the students to be open with each other and letting them know that your classroom (their classroom) is a safe space for them. This will help you to prevent any bullying or mistreating.
2. Teach your students to speak up if they see someone being bullied: Often times when children are being bullied they don’t want to speak up for fear of making the situation worse. By teaching your students to speak up for those that might not want to. However, as teachers it is also important for us to make sure that we are speaking up for the students that come to us with these issues. Often times it is easy to shrug off behaviors or things that students come to us with because we hear so much (especially from little ones) that often times we tend to just say “okay” and move on. Sometimes that’s okay, but often times we need to take a deeper look at the situation, especially when it pertains to the same set of students.
Which leads me to my next point….
3. Support the students being bullied: Being bullied is not at all easy to deal with. By establishing that you are there for your students to listen to them when they have a problem you are opening up a door so that they have a safe space. Once they have come to you with the issue then it is important that we get them help elsewhere. Encourage them to talk to the school psychologist (if one is available), their parents, or another trusted adult that can help them out. If a student is being bullied they need to know where and how to get help. It is also important that they understand it is not their fault, they are worth it, they have value, they are important and they are loved.
4. Teach your students (or kids) about internet safety: Unfortunately cyberbullying is becoming more and more common. The internet is a very big part of a lot of our kids lives and social media is everywhere. I remember growing up we basically had Myspace and that was it. Now there’s Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Music.ly and who knows what else. These are all ways that kids can talk to each other (or bully) when they are not with another person. By teaching your students/kids about how to safely use the internet you can cut out some of the chances that they will be cyberbullied. However if someone is being cyberbullied there are some things that they can do.
- Log off! : the bully can’t talk to you if you’re not logged on to whatever social media platform they are using to contact you.
- Block: Block emails, messages, their account whatever it is. By blocking them you deny them access to talk to you.
- Save What They Say: save the messages, comments or emails. Show them to an adult.
- Tell someone what’s happening: Talk to an adult that you trust. Bullying (especially cyberbullying) is not something that should or can be handled alone. Find an adult you trust to talk to about the issue.
5. Teach Conflict Resolution: This skill is something that everyone can learn from. Often times bullying is a result of some sort of conflict. One person feels upset and instead of talking it out with the other person (or group of people) the person will lash out. By teaching conflict resolution, it will hopefully encourage students to talk it out before they resort to lashing out.
I know sometimes it’s easier said than done. But bullying is something that we as educators can prevent and can help stop. Bullying isn’t an easy thing, it’s complex and it affects each kid differently and can ultimately affect their adult lives as well. Without these steps to help prevent bullying or without being aware of the signs of bullying things can become complex. Though the relationship between bullying and suicide is often over simplified by media. Though there is research to indicated that bully can lead to or worsen different feelings (rejection, exclusion, depression, anxiety) which can all contribute to suicidal behavior, those feelings often don’t intensify to the point where the person becomes suicidal. Now there are certain cases where an individual might be at a higher risk for suicidal thoughts or tendencies, but there are often other risk factors that are also associated with that.
My point in writing this is to hope that someone will be able to use this information to inform themselves or someone else. The more we are educated about the topic the more we are likely to be able to stop it or prevent it from actually happening.
Here are a few websites that discuss bullying and cyberbullying and some different ways to help kids who might need it:
I know that there are a lot of other websites that do the same thing but these are three that caught my eye. If you have any other websites or know of any other organizations please feel free to leave them in the comments below!